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Youngs out of Lions for family reasons

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 6/05/2017
Ben Youngs believes South Africa will revert to type against England © Provided by Press Association Ben Youngs believes South Africa will revert to type against England

Halfback Ben Youngs has withdrawn from the British and Irish Lions tour to New Zealand for family reasons.

Leicester, Youngs' English club, said on Saturday the halfback made the decision after receiving the news that the wife of his brother, Tom, has terminal cancer. She has been battling cancer for three years.

"We are a very close family and, as I am sure everyone can respect, time is now precious together," Ben Youngs said.

"I would like to thank (Lions coach) Warren Gatland, the staff and the other players for their understanding in this situation.

"I wish them well and, like all rugby supporters in British and Ireland, hope they have a successful tour."

Youngs will still play the remainder of the season for Leicester, who have qualified for the English Premiership play-offs.

He was one of three halfbacks selected in the Lions' 41-man squad, along with Ireland's Conor Murray and Welshman Rhys Webb.

England's Danny Care and Richard Wigglesworth, Greig Laidlaw of Scotland and Welshman Gareth Davies are contenders as his replacement.

Young, 27, has amassed 70 caps for England and won a further two for the Lions during their 2-1 triumph over Australia in 2013, starting the second international in Melbourne.

The loss of Youngs has been partially off-set by the return to fitness of Murray, who travels to New Zealand as first choice halfback.

Murray played 28 minutes of Munster's 50-14 PRO12 win over Connacht at Thomond Park, making his first appearance since suffering shoulder-related nerve damage while on Ireland duty almost two months ago.

Gatland had stated that Murray must prove his fitness before embarking for New Zealand and he has a further two matches to prove he is ready to face the All Blacks.

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