England halfback Ben Youngs yesterday announced that he has withdrawn from the Lions tour to New Zealand for family reasons.

The 27-year-old learned the wife of his brother Tom - a Leicester Tigers and England teammate - was terminally ill with cancer, having battled the illness for three years.

Youngs was included in a 41-man squad for his second tour but informed coach Warren Gatland of his decision to withdraw this weekend.

"We are a very close family and, as I am sure everyone can respect, time is now precious together," Youngs said in a Leicester statement.


"The most important thing for me at this difficult time is to be able to offer as much support as I can to Tom and his family in the remaining time we all have together.

"It is a great honour to be selected as a member of the British and Irish Lions squad and I would like to thank Warren Gatland, the staff and the other players for their understanding in this situation.

"I wish them well and, like all rugby supporters in British and Ireland, hope they have a successful tour."

Both Ben and Tom played in Leicester's 28-23 victory against Worcester Warriors yesterday and will feature in their Premiership semifinal against Wasps in two weeks.

- Reuters