All Black great Samuel Whitelock announces retirement from professional rugby

All Black great Samuel Whitelock announces retirement from professional rugby

Samuel Whitelock has announced he will retire from all professional rugby at the end of the current club season in France where he is playing for Pau.

The 35-year-old has called time on an illustrious professional career that started with Canterbury in 2008 and saw him become the most-capped All Black in history, winning two Rugby World Cups and multiple other titles along the way.

While he feels more than capable of his ability to continue playing at the top level, Whitelock has decided that after 17 years of dedication to his profession, he would like to focus on other areas in 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.

“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 was the youngest All Black to reach 100 Tests and the quickest in the world to achieve the milestone. By the end of 2023 he had played 153 Test matches and sits second on the all-time list of most-capped internationals.

“The thing I’m proud of is that I never really counted Test matches – I always wanted to make the Test matches count,” said Whitelock. “So if it was my last one, I wanted to be able to walk away and say ‘I gave it everything, I didn’t hold anything back.’ I was fully committed.”

Whitelock’s gratitude also extends to all of the coaches, support staff and administrators that made his time in professional rugby an enjoyable one.

"Sam has been one of the most influential players of his generation,” said New Zealand Rugby Chief Executive Mark Robinson. “His long list of accolades tell a pretty special story, but he has also made a very big impact off the field during his 14 years as an All Black.

"He cares greatly about the legacy of the All Blacks and everyone involved in it. He's been a sounding board for numerous players, coaches, administrators and others involved in this great game of ours.

"We wish him well in his retirement and the next phase of his life. And while he's hanging up his boots, we know he'll stay involved in rugby one way or another in the future."

All Blacks Head Coach Scott Robertson added: "Sam is 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.  

“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.”

* Note to New Zealand media: As per Samuel's request, this announcement was made public shortly after he informed his Pau team-mates in person.

Facts and stats:

• Born on 12 October 1988 in Palmerston North to parents Braeden and Caroline, Whitelock played 1stXV 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.

Latest News