Vunipola’s shoulder “popping out during games”

British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland has admitted that he is preparing to lose between six to ten players to injury throughout the tour.

Gatland was addressing the media in Dublin, where the Lions are based this week, after Sunday's news that Billy Vunipola had withdrawn from the tour.

Going off previous Lions tours Gatland admitted the figure could reach double figures, as the Lions begin to move on from losing one of their key players ahead of the trip to New Zealand.

“No doubt there could be a couple more next week,” Gatland told The Guardian.

“We plan to lose six to 10 players; that’s just the attrition rate of past tours. Any player who gets injured at this time is a big loss to the squad because you spend a lot of time going through the process of picking [specific] players.”

Gatland revealed that Vunipola's mind was made up after months playing through the injury, with the Saracens number eight now set for surgery.

“I did try and persuade him to come over and be assessed but he was adamant he wasn’t right,” Gatland added.

“He is a big loss to us but I fully respect the decision he’s made not to go on the tour. He spoke to his family and they felt he was making the right decision.

"I think it was pretty tough for him. He’s had this ongoing shoulder problem for the last five to six months. We knew he was being managed by Saracens and it needed an operation which was potentially going to be done this summer.

“It had been popping out during games so you’ve got to respect his decision. I wasn’t going to push him. He’s got to be in the right mental frame of mind… we just have to move on.”