Ben Youngs withdraws from Lions consideration due to family reasons

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Youngs has informed the Lions he is not available to tour - GETTY IMAGES
Youngs has informed the Lions he is not available to tour - GETTY IMAGES

Ben Youngs, the England scrum-half, has withdrawn from consideration for selection for the British and Irish Lions tour of South Africa because of family reasons.

Youngs was widely expected to be named as one of the three scrum-halves for the eight-game tour when head coach Warren Gatland names his 36-man squad on Thursday.

However, the 31 year-old who withdrew from the tour of New Zealand in 2017 after the wife of his brother Tom had been diagnosed with cancer, has revealed that he has informed the Lions he will not be available to tour this summer as his wife Charlotte is pregnant.

The decision increases the chances of his former England rival Danny Care of being selected, having already forced his way into contention with his outstanding form for Harlequins.

“Whether I had made the final cut or not, no-one knows anyway,” Youngs told Telegraph Sport.

“But because of the perspective I have had from four years ago and secondly because I have two young children and a third on the way – my wife is going to be heavily pregnant – this would have been a long period away from them.

“It has been a long couple of seasons now and so I just want to make sure I am here for the family and will be cheering the Lions on from afar.”

Youngs, who has 111 Test caps and a Lions pedigree that stretches back to the tour of Australia in 2013, revealed he had made his mind up “a while ago” but felt it was important to be transparent with Gatland.

“It was just whether I needed to actually make the decision or it was made for me,” he added.

“It is an honour to even be considered, for me it was about making sure that I was truly transparent about what I wanted to do, as I was four years ago.

“My perspective is going to be different to others because they didn’t go through what I did and the family.

“The bubble restrictions is always challenging and especially when you are abroad for nine weeks, which is what was looking like, and without any family coming over.

“I haven’t spoken to Warren directly. We got an email as a survey with a few questions and one of them was “would you be available for the summer and if you are not selected would you be available at a later date if needed for injuries.

“Four years ago I had made the squad so I rang Gats directly. This time I didn’t feel the need to speak to the coaches directly because I may have not been on the initial plane anyway.”

This could have been Youngs’ last opportunity to tour with the Lions but he insists he has no regrets.

“I am comfortable with the decision. I went on tour in 2013 and had a fantastic time, I went with my brother Tom and had my family out there.”

It is thought that Youngs is the only player to have indicated that he will not be able to travel, an indication of show special the players regard Lions tours and a significant boost for Gatland ahead of his final selection meeting on Wednesday.