Last week’s Lions talk was dominated by the devastating loss of Billy Vunipola to injury. The Saracens man further aggravated his ongoing shoulder injury in his side’s 18-16 loss to the Exeter Chiefs in the Premiership semi-final.
The injury was aggravated to such an extent that Vunipola made the difficult decision to get surgery on the issue earlier than originally anticipated which subsequently ruled him out of this year’s Lions tour to New Zealand.
Warren Gatland revealed last week that he tried to convince the bulldozing number eight to come on Tour anyway, in the hope that further assessment and treatment could potentially make him fit enough to start against the All Blacks. However, Vunipola made the decision to get the surgery to finally remedy the problem and you can only tip your hat to the 24-year-old for making such a difficult decision.
The decision was lauded by Gatland and Sam Warburton as “brave”, “mature” and selfless when they spoke about the issue last week in Carton House. This seems to be the general consensus on these shores but one journalist for Stuff.co.nz, Mark Reason, doesn’t share this view.
Bizarrely, he slams Saracens and Vunipola himself for the injury. He believes that Vunipola doesn’t get the Lions tour and that he should have played through the injury for the Lions regardless of the risk he would put to his own welfare and career.
And perhaps it is also an indictment of Vunipola. You feel he may not properly ‘get’ the Lions. You feel his loyalties are with Saracens who he calls “such an amazing bunch of guys.” By not even flying to Ireland to let the Lions medical staff assess him, Vunipola has shown the Lions unfortunate disrespect.
Disrespect? Vunipola was originally going to risk the injury anyway to play for the Lions and get surgery at the end of the season. The fact that he further aggravated the injury in Saracens’ semi-final loss means that surgery needed to happen – not at the end of the Tour.
He also takes a swipe at Saracens – saying that the club pushed him too far at the expense of the Lions.
It is a crying shame for the Lions and for New Zealanders who want to see the best playing each other. It is an indictment of Saracens who have pushed Vunipola too far at the expense of the Lions and now selfishly want him repaired.
A crying shame for New Zealanders and the Lions? We’re pretty sure supporters would prefer to see a fully fit Vunipola giving it his all rather than one who is suffering from an injury which not only seriously hampers his playing ability, but puts his own welfare at serious risk.
In addition to this, Saracens have not been selfish. They originally gave the okay for Vunipola to have his surgery at the end of the tour which would have seriously impacted on the beginning of their season, so this argument doesn’t stand up one bit.
Vunipola’s injury is undoubtedly a blow to the Lions but to say that Vunipola is being disrespectful is an insult to not only the player but the Lions and what this historic side stands for.
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