Haskell 'devastated' for Vunipola

James Haskell (Getty)
James Haskell (Getty)

London - New British and Irish Lions call-up James Haskell admitted that he is "devastated" for injured England team-mate Billy Vunipola.

The 32-year-old is set for his first tour with side after being called up on Sunday for Vunipola, who Haskell believes is the best in his position in the world currently. 

Haskell added that he was thrilled to be a part of the group, but not of the circumstances behind his selection, as he does his best to focus on this weekend's Premiership final for Wasps against Exeter Chiefs. 

And the England veteran admitted that he thought his chance to represent the Lions had gone after he missed out on the original squad back in April. 

"From a personal point of view it is a bit difficult because Billy is a really good mate of mine," Haskell told reporters. 

"He's an unbelievable player and probably the best number eight in the world. 

"I'm devastated for him and it's a huge loss for the Lions squad as a whole because he has been playing some incredible rugby. 

"I'm very sad to see he is not going to be involved from a fan's point of view, because up until about 16:00 on Sunday I was going to be a fan. 

"I've been given the opportunity to go and I'm unbelievably excited. I've driven my missus mad because I haven't gone too over the top because we have such a huge game weekend. This club has waited so long to get into a Premiership final and I will give 100 percent to that. If I get through that everything else will take care of itself. 

"It has been a childhood dream to be involved in the Lions that I never thought was going to happen. I had made peace that it wasn't going to happen. 

"Now I have been given that lifeline at the expense of one of the best players in the world. I'm very happy but I just want to make sure that I do well for Wasps this weekend. When I was younger I thought finals grew on trees but they don't. 

"The Lions is a complete unknown to me. I'm reduced to what I suspect is an academy-status Lion. You've got to go there and embrace everything that it is about. 

"I'm just going to be the bloke that tries to fit in and do whatever I can for the squad. 

"Of all the places to go New Zealand is one of the toughest. Wherever you go everyone gives you a Haka. They say they're welcoming you but it seems everyone's offering you out for a fight, from the kids aged five to the OAPs. They say they're welcoming you but it looks like an aggressive war dance. 

"But in all seriousness, they live and breathe their rugby, I love their passion. Everyone wants to be an All Black, it is a place where rugby is number-one priority. 

"It's going to be hugely exciting, but there's huge pressure, intensity, scrutiny, and you've got to gather round together as a squad and deliver performances to be proud of really."

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