Five players who retired from rugby in their 20s

SA Rugby magazine looks at five players who retired in the prime of their careers, and the paths they have taken subsequently.

Pat Lambie – 28 

Springbok and Sharks flyhalf Pat Lambie is one player who was sadly forced into an early retirement after sustaining a series of concussions. The mercurial pivot played 56 times for the Springboks and won two Currie Cup titles with the Sharks. Following his retirement, however, Lambie has spent some time working as a kicking consultant at the Sharks.

Barry John – 27 

Few players can say that they retired wholly on their own terms, and at the peak of their careers. Legendary Welsh flyhalf Barry John, however, can number himself within those few. The pivot is revered in Wales where he was referred to as ‘The King’ during his brief playing career. John stepped away from the game to become a newspaper columnist and professional journalist.

Christian Wade – 27

English flier Christian Wade retired from rugby at age 27 in order to make a career switch to pursue an NFL future. The former Wasps winge holds the Premiership record for most tries in a game (six) and earned one England cap. In 2018 Wade joined the Buffalo Bills as a running back and remains with the side.

Alex Corbisiero – 27

Former loosehead prop Alex Corbisiero played rugby for England U19 and U20, and eventually earned 31 caps for the senior national side. He was part of the Northampton Saints side which won the Premiership in 2014. In 2016, while still contracted at Saints, Corbisiero decided to take a sabbatical from rugby. He has now admitted he is unlikely to return to the game and has taken up a position as scrum coach for the LA Giltinis in the MLR.

Sam Warburton – 29

Wales and B&I Lions captain Sam Warburton retired from rugby at the peak of his powers at only 29 years of age. The flank had suffered an extremely injury-prone career and made the difficult decision to step away from rugby in 2018 after failing to recover from back and neck surgery. Warburton has remained involved in rugby as a commentator, pundit and coach.