Cardiff Blues chairman Peter Thomas has led the tributes to Sam Warburton after he called time on his illustrious career.
The two-tour British & Irish Lions captain, who spent his entire professional career at Cardiff Arms Park, announced today that he is hanging up his boots with immediate effect.
Warburton had returned to pre-season training with Cardiff Blues with a view to making a comeback following a year out but has reluctantly accepted he can no longer hit his previous heights.
Peter Thomas, who has watched Warburton come through the ranks at Cardiff Blues, was naturally disappointed that such a glittering career has come to an end but has paid tribute to the 29-year-old on behalf of the board.
Thomas said: “On behalf of myself, the Cardiff Blues board and the entire company, I would like to thank Sam for the enormous contribution he has made both to Cardiff Blues and the game of rugby in general.
“We are all immensely proud of his achievements and are truly fortunate that he has remained a Cardiff Blues player throughout his career.
“His achievements speak for themselves and he is undoubtedly one of the all-time greats of the game – more than 100 Cardiff Blues appearances, Wales youngest World Cup and most-capped captain, and our 58thLion.
“Sam will be sorely missed on the pitch but will always remain part of our family at Cardiff Blues and we hope to see him at Cardiff Arms Park for years to come.
“Not only is he a great player but a great man – a true Cardiffian, a gentleman and a role-model to all of us.”
Warburton, who came through the Blues age-grade system, made his competitive debut for the region in 2009 and quickly went onto the international stage.
He made his international debut against USA in 2010 and famously captained Wales during their march to the World Cup semi-finals in 2011.
He will go down in history as not only Cardiff and Cardiff Blues’ 58thLion but the famous tourists’ most successful captain.
Last year he became only the second man to captain the Lions on two tours, battling to a drawn series with New Zealand and beating Australia in 2013.
His final Cardiff Blues game came at the Kingspan Stadium last year, where he scored a try in a hard-fought 24-all draw.
Sir Gareth Edwards, a fellow great of Cardiff, Wales and British Lions rugby, and now a board member of Cardiff Blues joined in the many tributes.
He added: “It is a great shame to see Sam retire but he can be enormously proud of everything he has achieved in a Cardiff Blues, Wales and Lions jersey, as we are of him.
“His success on the pitch is unrivalled and he can be regarded right in the upper echelons of those who have played the game and perhaps the greatest of the modern era.
“Not only that but he is a great man, who is respected and admired all over the world. He will be a great loss to rugby both on and off the pitch but I’ sure he will contribute in some form in the future.”