London - Former Wales and British and Irish Lions captain Sam Warburton believes top level rugby players are at risk of death unless more is done to make the game safer.

Warburton retired aged 29 last year, beaten down by a long list of injuries, including a broken jaw, a plate inserted into his eye socket, a hamstring torn off the bone and damaged knee ligaments.

However, he fears even worse could happen unless rules are changed.

"If something isn't done soon, then a professional player will die during a game, in front of the TV cameras, and only then will people throw up their hands and demand that steps must be taken," Warburton told The Times.

Capped 74 times by his country and captain of two Lions tours, Warburton admitted to "not enjoying 80 percent of his career" such was the physical and mental toll it put on him.

"I used to be literally crawling up and down the stairs on my hands and knees like a toddler after an international game," he added.

Much has been done in recent years to assess players and enforce time out periods for players suffering from concussion.

But with elite players getting bigger and stronger all the time, Warburton wants to see a maximum limit placed on how many games a player can feature in a year and on full-contact training.

"A lot is being done, especially around concussion, but you will never make the tackle safe," he said.

"You can't have two blokes, 14 stone to 20 stone running full tilt, and make it safe. Chest and below makes sense but with the force of a sprinting knee driving into the side of your head, it's not necessarily the lower the better.

"I don't want to scaremonger. The same threat isn't there at recreational level. But you can't make it safe. You might make it a bit safer."