Wales and British & Irish Lions captain Sam Warburton has announced his retirement from rugby.
Warburton’s final game saw him lead the Lions to a draw against New Zealand in 2017, but the 29-year-old has now decided to call time on his career.
The flanker made his debut for the Wales senior team in June 2009, and went on to make 74 appearances for his country, taking the armband on 49 occasions.
He captained Wales in two World Cups, as well as guiding them to a Grand Slam and championship title.
“Unfortunately, after a long period of rest and rehabilitation the decision to retire from rugby has been made with my health and wellbeing as a priority,” Warburton told the Welsh Rugby Union’s official website.
“I cannot thank the Welsh Rugby Union and Cardiff Blues enough, who have gone beyond the call of duty, in providing the support I received to help me get back on the field, for which I will be forever grateful.
“Since I first played aged 10 at Llanishen Fach Primary School, then Whitchurch High School and Rhiwbina Juniors RFC, I always dreamed of playing for my hometown club the Cardiff Blues, Wales and the British and Irish Lions.”
Warburton was named the youngest ever Lions captain by head coach Warren Gatland at the age of 24.
“To look back on my career, I’m extremely proud of what I managed to achieve. There are so many people who helped me along the way from schoolteachers, coaches, friends and family.
“I thank you so much for supporting my dreams and aspirations. I hope they too can take some pride from my career.”
Warburton also paid a thanks to Wales head coach Gatland, who will be succeeded by Wayne Pivac after next year’s World Cup.
“I would like to make special mention of Warren Gatland. Without the faith he had in me and his unwavering support I would never have had the career I was able to pursue.
“Countless people work behind the scenes in professional rugby but I would like to thank to the fantastic medical teams at both WRU and Cardiff Blues who have looked after me throughout my career.”
(Featured image: National Assembly for Wales)