Sam Warbuton is acknowledged as one of the best open-side flankers in the world. He represented Wales at all levels, making his debut on the senior Wales rugby team against the USA in 2009. He captained Wales for the first time in June 2011 at the age of 22 years and 242 days, becoming the second youngest captain ever to skipper Wales. He led his country to the semi-finals of the World Cup in 2011 and to a triumphant Grand Slam in the Six Nations in 2012.
As his teenage years came to an end, Williams looked set for a life of relative obscurity playing scrum-half for his local side, Amman United, and scratching around in a variety of day jobs. All that changed, however, when he was plucked from nowhere by then Neath coach Lyn Jones, and his rise to become Wales's most dangerous strike runner was meteoric. Following his international debut aged 21, Williams lit up Wales's 2003 World Cup campaign and went on to become an integral part of the Grand Slam-winning side of 2005, a year in which he also toured with the British Lions to New Zealand. In 2008, when Wales took the Grand Slam once more, he made a sensational contribution to the side's glorious victory.
After leading the great Bryan Habana a merry dance on the way to two mesmerising tries on Wales' tour to South Africa just two months later, Williams became the first Welshman crowned IRB World Player of the Year that autumn. He then completed the 2008-09 season with a second Lions tour, touching down twice in the 28-9 third Test victory against the Springboks.
In Shane, Williams reveals the inside story of his incredible rugby career so far, the personal trials that have come with success and how he has managed to defy the odds to become a living Welsh rugby legend.
‘It was an absolute privilege to play against Sam. An inspiring leader with an equally inspiring story to tell.’
Sam Warburton OBE was not only a titan of Welsh rugby, but an icon of the game. Having represented his country as a player and team captain at all junior levels, he propelled himself to international attention in 2011 when named as the youngest ever captain of Wales for the Rugby World Cup.
Despite his tender age, Sam’s immense displays for club and country were recognised still further in April 2013, when, at just 24, he was named the Lions' captain for the extraordinary 2013 tour to Australia. Four years later, after a year ‘in the wilderness’, Sam was named Lions’ captain yet again for the historic tour to New Zealand, thereby becoming the first ever Lions Captain never to lose a series in the professional era.
Intelligent, calm, thoughtful – in many ways seemingly the exact opposite of the smash and crash of modern rugby – Warburton’s edge never came with his size, but with his depth of thought, his reading of movement, and his understanding that, to be a uniquely successful leader, one needs to set goals that far exceed the ambitions of even the most ferocious of opponents. In leading other men, and in pitting himself against the world’s best, Warburton was forced repeatedly to push himself to the very edge of his physiological and mental limits, the 21 significant injuries over that period a painful testament to his sacrifice.
Open Side is therefore not simply a chronology of events or a celebration of statistics. Written in a compelling but soul searching style, this is an astoundingly personal book exploring the nature of leadership, the value of self-control, the precision of mindset and of course the future of the game. It is also a deeply personal meditation on the sacrifice of body, the torment of injury and the pain of retirement, a decision Sam was forced to make in July 2018, at just 29 years old.
Never before has a rugby autobiography given such intimate access not only to the realities of the dressing room and the heroes and villains of the modern game, but to the unique mindset required to make someone a genuinely great leader of men.