Warren Gatland On Why He Called Up James Haskell To Replace Billy Vunipola

Warren Gatland has revealed he called up James Haskell to replace Billy Vunipola for a number of reasons.

The Lions head coach said he could have called up another number 8, but feels they have enough in that area with Toby Faletau, CJ Stander and Ross Moriarty all able to operate there.

Gatland says the fact that Haskell has experience in playing at 6,7 or 8 was a key factor and more importantly the fact that he has experience of not only touring New Zealand, but also playing there, having had a stint in Super Rugby.

Haskell played for the Highlanders in New Zealand back in 2011, a side the Lions will face on the 13th June in Dunedin. On his call-up, Haskell admits he has mixed emotions.

“It’s a bit of a mixed one for me because Billy Vunipola is a good friend of mine and he’s an incredible player,” Haskell told Sky Sports News HQ.
“He’s probably one of the best No 8s, if not the best No 8, in the world at the moment.
“I’ve had the opportunity and I’m very humbled because it’s been a childhood dream of mine to go on a Lions tour.

“I had a missed call from Warren and I wondered what I’d done wrong. But I called him back and he told me Billy had been injured and asked if I wanted to go on the tour.
“I said ‘yes please’ and he asked me if I was sure. I said I was definitely sure, even if it’s just carrying the bags and that was it really.
“I called Billy and told him I was gutted for him and I’m very sad that he’s not there.”

Haskell will link up with the Lions squad following Saturday’s Aviva Premiership final with Wasps.

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