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“It's time”: All Blacks icon Sam Whitelock announces retirement


Sam Whitelock, the most-capped All Black in history, announced overnight Wednesday that he is set to retire from all professional rugby.

The towering 35-year-old will officially hang up the boots at the conclusion of the current Top 14 season in France - Whitelock plays for Pau, who are currently middle of the table after 20 matches, sitting three points out of the top six.

With 153 Test matches to his name, two Rugby World Cup titles, and many accolades, including becoming the youngest All Black to reach 100 Tests at the age of 29, Whitelock has experienced the kind of success and longevity that few players get to enjoy.

And while he believes he is still capable of performing at the highest level, Whitelock has decided that 17 years is enough and it's time to focus on other aspects of his life.

“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 in an All Blacks statement.

“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. Being able to go to the cross-country at school and those things.

“It’s hard to thank everyone, but obviously Hannah has been a massive part along with my parents, brothers, cousins, uncles, aunties and grandparents. And also the fans in general, they’ve been so receptive of myself and also the way I play.

“I’m very appreciative of the support I’ve had and there is no way I could have achieved the things I’ve had without them.”

Whitelock's impact on New Zealand rugby has been long-lasting, starting with his Canterbury debut in 2008.

More recently, he played the hero in the 2023 Rugby World Cup quarterfinal against Ireland where his quick thinking helped the All Blacks secure a 28-24 victory after withholding an attack that lasted 37 phases in the final moments.

"Sam Whitelock, you are magnificent! Sam Whitelock has forced a penalty and the game will be over," SENZ commentator Daniel McHardy said as he called the moment live on-air, going on to create an iconic line of commentary to match the occassion.

"Sam Whitelock's career will go on, and the Irish will crash out of Rugby World Cup 2023. Always, always bet on black!"

Former Crusaders head coach, and now current All Blacks head coach Scott Robertson, added to Whitelock's praise following the retirement announcement.

“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.

“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.

“Sam will stand with the greats of our game.”


• Born on 12 October 1988 in Palmerston North to parents Braeden and Caroline, Whitelock played 1st XV rugby for Fielding High School, alongside fellow All Blacks centurion Aaron Smith.

• He was selected in the New Zealand Schools team in 2005 & 2006.

• After high school he moved to Christchurch to further his rugby career and study at Lincoln University, and was selected for the New Zealand Under 19 team.

• In 2008 he was part of the New Zealand Under 20’s team that won the inaugural Junior World Championship, which was followed by a provincial debut for Canterbury later that year. He played a total of 22 games for the province.

• He made his Super Rugby debut for the Crusaders in 2010 and played 180 times for the team through to 2023. Only Wyatt Crockett has more appearances (203). The club won seven Super Rugby titles during his time there.

• He scored two tries in his Test debut on 12 June 2010 against Ireland in New Plymouth, aged 21, becoming All Black number 1104. His last Test was the 2023 RWC final against South Africa in Paris.

• He recorded 125 wins in 153 Tests, with 22 losses and six draws. When he reached 100 Tests, he was the first player in the world to do so with less than 10 defeats. At that point he had lost just eight times.

• In addition to two Rugby World Cup wins, he won 11 Tri Nations/Rugby Championship titles and was involved in 14 straight seasons where the All Blacks retained the Bledisloe Cup.

• Whitelock was the eighth All Blacks centurion, achieving the milestone in a 38-13 win over Australia in Sydney on August 18, 2018.

• He first captained the All Blacks against Wales on 25 November 2017 and would go on to captain the side in a total of 18 Tests.

• The November 2017 clash with Wales marked his first Test alongside brother Luke. The pair would play a total of five Tests together while Luke was awarded the captaincy a week before Sam (against France XV) on the 2017 end of year tour.

• Whitelock’s brother George played one Test for the All Blacks in 2009, while another brother Adam represented the All Blacks Sevens.

• In 2022 Whitelock and long-time second row partner Brodie Retallick set a new world record of 64 Test starts together, surpassing Springbok duo Bakkies Botha and Victor Matfield.

• He was awarded the Kelvin R. Tremain Memorial Trophy as New Zealand Player of the Year in 2017 and was named in the 2022 World Rugby Men’s Dream Team of the Year.

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