Rugby World Cup 2019: Lions captain Sam Warburton almost quit NZ tour

Former British & Irish Lions captain Sam Warburton has revealed a phone call to his mum stopped him from quitting the team during their 2017 tour of New Zealand. 

In an extract from his soon-to-be-released book Open Side, published by Wales Online, the now-retired Warburton says he came close to walking out on the eve of the second test against the All Blacks in Wellington. 

Warburton says he was in an emotional and physical state, and had planned to leave on the first fight back to the UK, without telling anybody. 

But before he executed his plan, he spoke to his mum, who talked him out of his radical idea.

"Why am I putting myself through all this pain - all this pressure - when I could be doing something – anything – else?" Warburton wrote. "Why am I in a job which, right now, I detest? 

"Before I go out to play these days, I have to take neck-pain tablets, while the physios strap me up like an Egyptian mummy. I have to stand there, butt naked in front of them, cupping my twig and berries, while they bind my knees, my ankles, my shoulders and my elbows.

"I pull back the curtains and look out. Below me is the Wellington waterfront. 

"It's quiet and empty, but earlier this evening, it was packed, as it will be tomorrow night. Many will be wearing red rugby shirts and will have saved up for years to come all the way across the world, just to watch us play.

"Round and round and round. Physical stress, mental stress and emotional stress, all working on and off each other. 

"Two in the morning and no-one to talk to.

"I need to talk to someone. There are several people I could call, but there's only one person I know will really understand. 

"I dial her number. 'Sam?' 

"Her voice is full of concern. It's lunchtime back home in Cardiff. 

"She knows what time it is where I am and that I wouldn't be phoning for no reason.

"'I've had enough, Mum.' My throat is tight with the effort of not bursting into tears. 

"'I really have. I'm just going to go.'

"'Go where?'

"'To the airport. Do a bunk, leave all my kit here, get on the first plane home. 

"I'll be in the air before they realise I've gone.'

"I didn't, of course. Can you imagine the headlines - THE RUNAWAY SKIPPER.

"And no-one knew, apart from my mum. She talked me down, told me that I didn't owe anything to anyone, so all I had to do was get through this week, and the next and then the series would be over, and I could do what I wanted.

"She was right, of course. She knew the way love for - and hatred of - rugby oscillated within me, because they did for her too. 

"She loved what the game had given me and the pleasure I'd got from it, but she hated seeing me beaten up or under the knife, or criticised."

Warburton went on to play in the second test, captaining the team to a 24-21 win, before the teams played out a 15-15 draw - and drawn series - a week later.

In his book, he also said he wanted the third test to go to extra time, claiming he and All Blacks captain Kieran Read agreed they would have preferred to keep going at Eden Park.

In July 2018, Warburton announced his retirement from rugby.


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