SAM WARBURTON thought about quitting rugby TEN TIMES because of his mental torment.
And the former Wales and Lions skipper revealed that despite conquering his demons, it was a relief when he finally retired in 2018.
Warburton overcame seven surgeries — metal plates in his jaw and eye along with two shoulder and knee operations and one on his neck — to play 74 times for Wales.
The flanker also won a Lions series in Australia and drew another against New Zealand.
Talking bravely about his personal battles during Mental Health Awareness Week, the 31-year-old said: “It’s normal human behaviour to feel nerves or anxiety.
“I must have retired in my career about ten times . . . because it was getting too much for me and getting on top of me.
“But you end up having a reality check, getting back on the horse and going again.”
As well as his injury issues, Warburton has said previously he feared his red card in the 2011 World Cup semi-final would mean he would have to build himself back up from rock bottom — like David Beckham on his return to England after France 1998.
After leading an online workout for more than 600 key workers for Thames Water, Warburton — now part of Wales’ coaching set-up — added: “The easy decision was to retire.
“The day I retired I couldn’t even jump on a trampoline with my daughter, the pain was so bad. The hard thing was letting people know who had put so much time into me.
“Since I finished I have kept to my routine of staying fit and my wife says that’s the one thing that keeps me sane — keeping fit and healthy.
“It becomes addictive and part of my routine, like having a shower or brushing my teeth. Filling your life with positive people helps too.” Warburton says his charity work, including with a cancer centre in Cardiff, has also been beneficial.
He added: “The one thing I search for whenever I am feeling anxious or nervous is perspective.
“One person I met, he told he had one or two months to live. He said there are three things in life you take for granted — friends or family, health and time. It has always stuck with me.
“So whenever I go through a high-pressure situation in rugby or anything else, I always try to keep perspective.
“Some people know they only have a few months left but we might have ten, 20, 30, 40 more Christmases to enjoy with our families. There is always someone out there showing a lot of strength in a worse position than you are.”
Back in 2011, his red card led him to worry he would have to overcome fans’ fury, as Beckham did after his own World Cup sending-off.
He said afterwards: “Beckham is remembered for a lot of other things other than his red card. Things like that happen and it’s up to myself to be positive and create better memories.”
Warburton works for Wayne Pivac’s Wales as a breakdown specialist, helping to bring through the next generation of No 7s.
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He added: “I’ve always been super-disciplined and I was never going to stop until I played No 7. I had a dream to play for the Lions in that position when I was about 15.
“My dad bought me a No 7 shirt one Christmas and I wore it everywhere — training, running. I loved it.
“Then I put it away one day and my dad was asking where it was as it had cost him a lot of money.
“I told him that I had put it away because the next time I wore one, I wanted it to be the real thing.
“When I was at school I would be out running late at night to make sure no one was fitter than me. No one would work harder than me. I had the self-belief that they couldn’t be as good as me.
“I believed in myself so that when the time came and I got that No 7 Lions shirt, I put it on my bed in my hotel room and stared at it.
“That was the moment I realised ten years of hard work had got me there, to my dream of playing for the Lions.
“You have to set yourself a dream and then go and get it.”