‘Absolute legend': Rugby fans around the world react to All Black ‘icon’ Sam Whitelock retiring
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‘Absolute legend': Rugby fans around the world react to All Black ‘icon’ Sam Whitelock retiring

“Thanks for the battles and memories."

After donning the black jersey more times than anyone else, Sam Whitelock has announced his retirement from the game of rugby. 

“I’ve been having a few conversations with my wife Hannah and the kids around what the future looks like for us,” he said in a statement. “And it’s time to finish the playing chapter of rugby.”

“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.”

He’s made the call after playing professionally for 17 years, including a record 153 test matches for the All Blacks and 180 games for the Crusaders. In that time, the 35-year-old has left a huge impression on rugby and a bigger one on the fans.

“One of the greatest to have ever laced up a pair of boots,” wrote one person on Reddit. “Hope he enjoys retirement, he’s earned it.

“Absolute Kiwi legend,” said another on Instagram. “You’ve put a lot into every jersey you’ve played in.”

“For me hands down the best player at the 2015 RWC and have been performing at the top level in every game since. And just how we like our sporting heroes, going about it all without a fuss. Enjoy the family time mate.”

“An icon of the game,” the Crusaders wrote in a tribute post. “Thank you for everything.”

“Absolute legend of the game,” another fan added. “Thanks for the battles and memories. We South Africans salute you.”

Throught his career, Whitelock won two Rugby World Cups, seven Super Rugby titles, 11 Tri Nations/Rugby Championship trophies and most recently had the whole of New Zealand cheering when he secured a game-winning turnover in the final seconds of the 2023 RWC quarter final against Ireland. 

Truly one of the GOATs. Enjoy retirement.