3 Apr 2024

‘An immortal of our incredible game’ - All Black great Sam Whitelock retires

7:14 am on 3 April 2024
Sam Whitelock of the All Blacks

Sam Whitelock is the most capped All Black of all time, but is now leaving the game. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Samuel Whitelock, the most capped All Black of all time, has announced he will retire from all professional rugby.

Whitelock is currently playing for Section Paloise in the Top 14 and will hang up his boots at the end of the French domestic season in June.

After debuting in 2010 against Ireland in New Plymouth, Whitelock went on to amass 153 caps for the All Blacks over the next 13 years. He was part of two World Cup winning All Black campaigns in 2011 and 2015, starting in both finals as well as last year's one-point final loss to the Springboks in Paris.

"I've been having a few conversations with my wife Hannah and the kids around what the future looks like for us. And it's time to finish the playing chapter of rugby," Whitelock said.

"I think if you talk to anyone who has played for a long time, that desire [to compete] never leaves, it's just that stage of life when you move on. It's not a decision that we have come to lightly, but it's the right thing for myself and it's the right thing for my wife and our three kids - Fred, Iris and Penelope. And I think that is what excites me the most spending more time with my kids and my wife, and actually watching them play sport."

All Blacks captain Sam Whitelock holds the Bledisloe Cup after beating the Wallabies in the 2nd 2021 Bledisloe Cup Test rugby match at Eden Park - Auckland - New Zealand.  14  August  2021.

Whitelock debuted in 2010 against Ireland. Photo: Brett Phibbs/Photosport Ltd 2021

Born in Palmerston North, Whitelock first rose to prominence as a member of the New Zealand Under 20's team that won the inaugural Junior World Championship. He then made his provincial debut for Canterbury the same year.

Whitelock's grandfather Nelson Dalzell and great uncle Allan Elsom were also All Blacks in the early 1950s. Two of his brothers, George and Luke, were also capped at test level with Luke captaining the side. Another brother, Adam, played for the All Blacks Sevens.

One of the more staggering aspects of his career was that by the time he had played his 100th test, Whitelock had only tasted defeat eight times. He also played 180 times for the Crusaders, winning seven Super Rugby titles and was named New Zealand Rugby Player of the Year in 2017. In 2022 Whitelock and long-time locking partner Brodie Retallick set a new world record of 64 test starts together.

The All Blacks lock Sam Whitelock.

Whitelock played 180 times for the Crusaders. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

His coach for all of those Super Rugby triumphs, Scott Robertson, said Whitelock was "an immortal of our incredible game".

"First and foremost, he is a quality person. A great husband and father who has a special ability to build deep connections with people from all walks of life," Roberston said.

"In terms of his rugby, Sam's impact has been immense both mentally and physically over four World Cup cycles. He is a winner who rose to any occasion as his competitive spirit drove him to the highest level of performance."

Whitelock's retirement leaves 41-year-old Ma'a Nonu as the last member of the 2011 World Cup winning team still active in professional rugby.

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