British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland has confirmed the addition of Wasps flanker James Haskell to his squad for the tour of New Zealand following the withdrawal of Saracens powerhouse Billy Vunipola.
No8 Vunipola, who played in Saracens’ 18-16 Premiership semi-final defeat to Exeter on Saturday, has been managing an ongoing shoulder injury but requires further medical treatment. Haskell will join Gatland’s party after Saturday’s Premiership final.
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“It is really disappointing for Billy and we know how much he was looking forward to joining the squad,” said Gatland. “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. We have called up James to the squad. We wish him all the best next weekend and look forward to welcoming him into camp.”
Vunipola is the second player after Leicester scrum-half Ben Youngs to withdraw from the Lions squad. Youngs declared himself unavailable after learning that his brother’s wife was terminally ill. The Lions tour gets underway on 3 June with a clash against the New Zealand Barbarians.