Wales, Lions star Sam Warburton feared career was over after latest injuries

ESPN staff2 Minute Read
Sam Warburton has not played since the final Test of the Lions' tour of New Zealand in July.David Rogers/Getty Images

Sam Warburton has admitted he feared his career was over earlier this season as he warned an extended campaign would place an unbearable strain on players.

Former Wales and British & Irish Lions captain Warburton, 29, has taken a year out of professional rugby as he recovers from a long list of injuries that culminated in neck and knee operations.

Despite not taking to the field since the Lions' third Test against the All Blacks last July, he says he is "100 percent" certain that he will play again. But that was not always the case.

"I sat down with Danny [Wilson, Cardiff Blues head coach] and Warren [Gatland, Wales head coach] and I said that I wasn't sure if I wanted to play again," he told the Times.

"I told them honestly how I felt about my body. I told them I was worried for my body. I said, 'I've got a daughter now and I want to be able to go to the beach with her and hold her.' I said, 'I'm doubting playing again.'"

Warburton suffered the setback on his first day of preseason training with the Blues, following a four-week training programme with international teammate Jonathan Davies under Wales' guidance.

Davies has missed much of the season himself with a foot injury, and Warburton believes that plans for a prolonged season as part of the new global calendar would only result in more players in the treatment room.

"Anyone saying we should increase the season has not played professional rugby," he said. "I love rugby, I wouldn't want to play any other sport, but you just can't add more games.

"The seasons can't get longer. If you play more than 25 games a year you put yourself at more risk of being injured. That's why the dual contracts in Wales are so good. I hear of some players in England playing more than 35 games and I think . . .

"When Maro [Itoje] broke his jaw earlier this season the first thing I thought was, 'Brilliant. That is exactly what ne needs. He needs a break.' It sounds terrible but the only time you get a break these days is when you get injured. It is wrong."