Tuesday 25 July 2017

Ben Youngs backed by Warren Gatland for Lions withdrawal because 'family comes first'

Ben Youngs (right) pulled out of the British and Irish Lions tour due to personal reasons. Getty
Ben Youngs (right) pulled out of the British and Irish Lions tour due to personal reasons. Getty

Jack de Menezes

Ben Youngs’ decision to withdraw from the British and Irish Lions squad after the wife of his sister, Tom, was told her cancer was terminal has received the full backing of head coach Warren Gatland, who offered his support to the England scrum-half by admitting “family comes first”.

Leicester Tigers player Youngs announced his withdrawal from squad that will tour New Zealand from next month after Tiffany Youngs, the wife of his elder brother, learned that she is terminally ill.

The entire family received an outpouring of support from players, fans and coaches as the rugby world united behind the brothers – who will see out the Premiership season with Leicester after the club qualified for the semi-finals at the weekend – and Gatland was quick to offer his support to Youngs when he rang him on Saturday to inform him of his withdrawal.

"It was really tough for Ben, he rang me on Saturday," said Gatland.

"Obviously our thoughts to Tom and his family, in terms of we've known something's been ill for a while.

"As far as I'm concerned family comes first, he's made that decision and we know how close they are and we fully respect that decision and understand it.”

With Youngs pulling out of the tour in order to spend as much time as possible with his family over the coming months, Gatland made a quick decision to bring Scotland captain Greig Laidlaw into the squad as his third scrum-half, with Ireland’s Conor Murray and Wales’ Rhys Webb making up the No 9 contingent.

"After having spoken to Ben from a selection view point it was reasonably easy,” Gatland added.

"I rang [Scotland head coach] Gregor Townsend and [Gloucester director of rugby] David Humphreys as well.

"Greig Laidlaw was someone we'd discussed initially, but the fact he'd been injured in the Six Nations was one of the reasons he probably wasn't in the original squad.

"It was obviously not ideal for him, but he's here from day one which is a bit easier than a later introduction to the squad."

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