LONDON - British and Irish Lions captain Sam Warburton will return to rugby next season after surgery on his knee and neck which he believes will give his career a new lease of life.
The 29-year-old back-row forward underwent two operations after last year's Lions tour of New Zealand.
“It will 100 percent extend my career,” he told the Western mail on Tuesday.
“I was worried how long I would be able to go on playing if I didn’t get these issues sorted, mentally as well, because I didn’t want to commit to the physical side of the game and without the physical side of the game that’s me over.
“I’ve got to get my body right to get my head right to play again.”
Warburton, who said he felt he was playing at 70-80 percent on the Lions tour, had a synthetic ligament attached to his knee and some bone shaved in his neck to alleviate a pinched nerve.
“I had to sign a form beforehand accepting there was a one in 3,000 chance of paralysis, which isn’t great before an operation. They said if you want to play rugby again, it’s worth having,” Warburton said.
“Since the operation in September, everything has gone away,” he said of pain and sensitivity in his neck and arm as a result of the pinched nerve.
“My knee is lovely and rigid again. I haven’t had that for about six years."
Warburton has a daily regime of physiotherapy to aid his recovery but has also taken time away from rugby.
“I needed to get away completely and give my mind a break as much as anything else,” he said.
Warburton's focus is now on the 2019 World Cup with Wales and he has not decided what he will do after that.
“I am keeping the door open, I want to get to that point and see how I feel," he said. "I only want to play if I know I can be physically at my very best.”