Web of fear: Sam Warburton tells of his arachnophobia

Mark Brown Arts correspondent
The Guardian
<span>Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images

He seems to be hard as nails, is built like a mountain and loves the TV programme I’m a Celebrity, but Sam Warburton will not be appearing on it for one very mundane reason.

“Spiders,” the former Wales and British Lions captain told Cheltenham literature festival. “I’ve genuinely gone down from my hotel room in Wales games … and I saw there was this huge spider on the curtain and I don’t know where he’s gone. I can’t go in that room.”

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Warburton, who announced his retirement from rugby last year, said he had been approached for a number of TV programmes. “I was asked to go on I’m a Celebrity this Christmas and I love that programme. It’s the one thing I watch every time … but I can’t do it.”

He even agreed to attend a meeting in London but got cold feet two days before, fearing he would need hypnotherapy. “I said to them: ‘I can’t go on there.’ I said: ‘I’m not being arrogant, it would be good telly … but for who?’

“I’m not doing it,” he told the Cheltenham audience. “I say this now, and then next year ….”

Warburton retired, aged 29, having won 79 Test caps. He led Wales to a grand slam and the British Lions to a historic 1-1 Test series draw in New Zealand.

Many people imagine he lives a glamorous life but he told the audience he was an ordinary guy who lived on an ordinary street, walked his dog, liked going to his local Indian restaurant and enjoyed binge-watching Friends.

“I think they think I’m going to be at Monaco, then I went to Miami and I was doing a shoot with Vogue,” he said. “That’s not what it’s like at all.”

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