The England flanker made the offer to boss Warren Gatland as he was told he was in his squad
JAMES HASKELL was so desperate to tour New Zealand with the Lions that he was willing to go as a bag carrier.
The England and Wasps flanker was called up on Sunday to replace injured No8 Billy Vunipola who pulled out with a shoulder problem.
And Haskell admitted it was one of the proudest days of his life after he thought he would be touring Argentina this summer with Eddie Jones’ Red Rose squad.
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The 32-year-old said: “I had some family up and we went for some food and I went back to the car and I had got a missed call from Warren. I wondered what I’d done wrong.
“I called him back and he basically just said that Billy had been injured. . . and did I want to go. I said: ‘Yes please!’
He said: ‘Are you sure?”. And I said: ‘Yeah I definitely do, even if I have to carry the bags.’
“I spoke to Billy and I’m gutted for him as he is such a good player and such a good guy.
“To become such a global force that he has – I am very sad he is not there.
“Big Bill is one of the best backrow players in the world and a huge loss to any team. He is a guy I admire every time he plays.
“Obviously it’s the biggest honour in my career to get a call up for the British and Irish Lions.”
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Lions skipper Sam Warburton was also heartbroken for Vunipola – a player he was desperate to play alongside in the southern hemisphere.
The Cardiff Blues ace said: “He was one of the guys I was really looking forward to playing with. It’s a really mature and brave call for him to make. It’s a brave call to put the team first.”
Instead Warburton will have to get used to training and playing with Vunipola’s England teammate Haskell.
Haskell has played in New Zealand for the Highlanders, but despite all his experience and 75 international caps he has never been picked for the Lions.
The Wasps man added: “I’m reduced to an academy level player at the Lions, I don’t know anything about it.
“I’m coming right in at the bottom. I just want to be humble, I want to learn, I want to be part of this group and respect everyone and just try to enjoy it.”