Billy Vunipola: Lions withdrawal a brave decision - Eddie Jones

By Chris JonesBBC Radio 5 live rugby reporter
England head coach Eddie Jones and Billy Vunipola
Billy Vunipola scored on his England debut during the tour of Argentina in June 2013
British and Irish Lions 2017
Date: 3 June-8 July Venue: New Zealand
Coverage: Live text commentary on every match on the BBC Sport website and mobile app.

Billy Vunipola's "ethics and honesty" led to his withdrawal from the British & Irish Lions' tour of New Zealand, says England head coach Eddie Jones.

Vunipola pulled out of the summer trip because of an ongoing shoulder injury.

Lions boss Warren Gatland was keen to manage the number eight through it, but Jones says that was not an option.

"He is such an honest boy - he didn't want to fudge it," the Australian told BBC Sport. "It was a very brave and courageous decision."

Vunipola aggravated a shoulder problem in Saracens' Premiership semi-final defeat by Exeter on Saturday.

And Jones revealed that when the 24-year-old texted him on Sunday it was clear "he had his mind made up" not to tour.

Another England international, scrum-half Ben Youngs, withdrew from the squad earlier this month after the wife of his brother Tom learned she is terminally ill.

"For me, it's a good indication of the ethics of our players," Jones said.

"They don't feel emotionally or physically right to play and, rather than go there and try to fudge their way through the tour, they have done the right thing."

Jones also rejected the notion that Vunipola is prioritising England and Saracens, reiterating that "it is about him being a very ethical rugby player".

'Haskell will force his way into the Test team'

James Haskell
James Haskell was named man of the series for England's 3-0 victory over Australia in June 2016

Vunipola's withdrawal led to a summons for experienced flanker James Haskell, who Jones believes will force his way into the Test side after having "an absolute stormer" in one of the opening three tour matches.

Haskell was to tour Argentina with a youthful England squad next month, but instead joins an entire team of players unavailable to Jones.

The Australian will field a host of uncapped players against the Barbarians at Twickenham on Sunday.

"We asked these young guys: 'Who are going to be the three or four involved in holding the World Cup up in 2019?

"'It's not going to be all of you so you have a choice now to make about how desperate you are to be one of those players.'"

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