Wednesday 26 July 2017

Vunipola blow for Lions

Saracens' Billy Vunipola (right) gets away from Exeter Chief's Geoff Parling during the Aviva Premiership Semi final match at Sandy Park yesterday
Saracens' Billy Vunipola (right) gets away from Exeter Chief's Geoff Parling during the Aviva Premiership Semi final match at Sandy Park yesterday

Independent.ie Sportsdesk

The Lion's chances of winning a series in New Zealand next month took a huge hit last night when England No 8 Billy Vunipola was forced to withdraw from the tour.

The Saracens star had been in excellent form having come back from injury during the Six Nations, but he requires further treatment on an ongoing shoulder injury and has had to rule himself out.

His England team-mate James Haskell has been called up by Warren Gatland, who will issue a further medical update today when he assesses the players who are due to gather for the squad sessions at Kildare's Carton House this week.

Vunipola had been expected to be a Test starter on the gruelling tour and he will be difficult to replace.

Wales' Taulupe Faletau is probably the next in line, but the English player's withdrawal may also open a door for CJ Stander, who finished Ireland's Six Nations campaign in the No 8 jersey after Jamie Heaslip was injured.

"It is really disappointing for Billy and we know how much he was looking forward to joining the squad," Gatland said in a statement.

"He has been carrying an injury and feels he wouldn't be able to contribute fully to the tour and needs further medical treatment. We really appreciate his honesty in making this decision and wish him luck with his recovery."

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