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was addressing the media in Dublin, where the Lions are based this week, after Sunday's news that Billy Vunipola had withdrawn from the tour.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

Aki undergoes shoulder surgery

Connacht have announced that centre Bundee Aki is set for shoulder surgery, meaning he will miss out on playing for the Barbarians.

According to the Irish province, the New Zealand-born influential midfielder is expected to return in time for the start of the 2017/18 season.

The Barbarians are set to face England at Twickenham this Sunday.

Quesada - 'We belong in Champions Cup'

Stade Français coach Gonzalo Quesada believes it would be unnatural for his side not to be playing Champions Cup rugby next season.

The Paris club had to face the ignominy of not qualifying for the Champions Cup this season but managed to salvage some pride by winning the Challenge Cup when they defeated Gloucester earlier this month.

While Quesada is happy with acquiring some silverware, his main prerogative is the Champions Cup and he would he see the season as a failure were they not to qualify for European Rugby's number one competition.

The French giants will face Northampton Saints on Friday in the Champions Cup play-off final after their convincing 46-21 semi-final win over Cardiff Blues in Paris.

"I wanted this victory of course. I would be very happy to take the team back into the Champions Cup. This club's place is in the Champions Cup, not in the Challenge," Quesada told EPCR.

"We knew it would be very hard against Cardiff and given our preparation, we can not be too disappointed.

"At Northampton, it will be very complicated for us."

Meanwhile, veteran scrum-half Julien Dupuy deputised for Will Genia at scrum-half for the match and has reflected on his last home game for Stade before he retires at the end of the season.

"It was a special week. Mentally, it has been pretty tough this year and we're going to have to play one more match," Dupuy said.

"The boys played really well against Cardiff and it was a great rugby match. It was good to finish like that."

"I'm happy to finish on a great victory. I try to take advantage of these moments.

"It's been 15 years since I started and rugby was barely professional then. The sport has given me a lot, I also gave it quite a bit. I am proud of my journey, but I will now move on."

Dupuy is likely to make way for Genia for the final with Northampton on Friday.

Schreuder to swap Kings for Sharks

Sharks head coach Robert du Preez has announced the signings of Louis Schreuder, Cameron Wright and Tyler Paul ahead of this year's Currie Cup.

All three players have signed two-year contracts with the Durban-based outfit.

"Former Stormers and now Kings scrum-half, Louis Schreuder brings with him a wealth of experience and with the loss of Cobus Reinach to Northampton, Schroeder together with the Michael Claassens will shepherd the scrum-half responsibilities and provide the necessary mentorship and guidance to our emerging scrumhalves at the franchise," Du Preez told the Sharks' official website.

Another scrum-half who will be joining Schreuder in Durban is Wright, who is no stranger to the Sharks after spending his junior years with the team.

“After a short stint in France, which has aided his personal development, he makes a welcome return home," said Du Preez.

"Cameron understands our unique culture and team values and everyone is excited to have him back home."

Voted Kings U19 player of the year in 2013, lock/flank Paul, 22, is another player who has shone this season.

“His work ethic and drive makes him a perfect fit for our team and we are confident that his move to Durban will prove to be beneficial for both the player’s personal development and for our team," added Du Preez.

"Our core emphasis is to retain home grown talent and a lot of effort has been placed on signing the best junior players in our province.

"With the acquisition of these juniors, it is also important to have experience in the mix and due consideration was given to signing players that will fit into the unique culture we have here at The Sharks and the vision we are building towards. 

"These three players fit that mould and we look forward to them joining our family."

Ford relishing June internationals

Bath fly-half George Ford says he is excited by the challenge facing England ahead of their games against the Barbarians and Argentina.

Ford says the side are determined to return from Argentina with a 2-0 series victory as they continue to build towards the 2019 World Cup.

“My focus is making myself a better player and being part of an England team that can go to the World Cup in 2019 and try and win it,” said Ford. “I’m massively excited to be part of this team, I know how far we have come in the last 18 months and I know how far we can go in the next two years.

“I don’t think you’d want to go to Argentina thinking any differently,” he said. “We want to go there and win 2-0 and we are expecting to.”

England held a three-day training camp in Brighton last week and despite missing several players to Lions duty, as well as those still involved domestically, Ford says the intensity has not dropped.

And he has been impressed at the strength in depth, with several uncapped players involved.

“We are constantly pushing boundaries to be better as individuals,” said Ford. “As a team and as a player who wants to keep getting better and developing that’s great for me to be exposed to that.

“I’ve seen today the strength in depth is incredible. The competition for places is brilliant and I fully believe we can go there and get two good results and keep moving our game on. We’ve definitely got good enough players here to go and get two good results.”

Ford also believes the Old Mutual Wealth Cup clash against the Barbarians at Twickenham Stadium on 28 May is the perfect build-up for the tour to Argentina and is eager to play in the fixture.

“I’d love to play,” said Ford, who has won 35 caps for England.

“Every time there’s a chance to play for England you want to do so and it will be a great test before we go out to Argentina and play two incredibly tough games. For me personally, I wouldn’t have played for three-to-four weeks by the time Argentina comes around so I want to get out there at Twickenham and play another game and stay match fit.”

He added: “It’s a great opportunity for us to go out there and play against the Barbarians like we want to play against Argentina, build some foundations and transfer what we are doing in training into a game.”

Davids hails kings improvement

The Kings' breakthrough season has seen four of their players rewarded with call-ups to Springbok coach Allister Coetzee's training camp.

Fly-half Lionel Cronje, wing Makazole Mapimpi, fetcher Chris Cloete and loose forward Andisa Ntsila are taking part in the camp which runs from May 21 to May 23.

All four have been vital contributors to a much-improved Kings outfit from previous seasons.

The Kings have won three of their last four games, including a 44-3 demolition of the Rebels.

Coach Deon Davids believes the fact that four of their players are involved with the Springboks is testament to their improvement.

"If you think about the players that were invited and how they took their opportunity … some of those players played first division rugby last year," Davids told Sport 24, pointing to Cronje as a player in the SA rugby wilderness.

"It has just emphasised the importance of this franchise and how if players get an opportunity and if they’re put in a good environment and structure, they can excel.

"It’s a testimony to what we are about and what we try to achieve here. For me, it’s an excellent achievement for the whole team, the region and the individuals.

"It’s something that we mustn’t see out of context. We must understand that even with the challenges and circumstances, these guys excelled by grabbing their opportunity. They must be applauded for that."

The Kings, meanwhile, clash with the Lions in Johannesburg this weekend and Davids believes that teams are paying more attention to his side.

"If you start winning games, other teams start analysing you smarter and it gets tougher," he said.

"We’ve got to work hard to stay that one step ahead and that’s going to be our challenge going into the next few games. 

"As a team we can only get better in terms of how we execute."

Catterick calls it a day

Newcastle Falcons back Tom Catterick has announced his retirement from rugby at just 26 years of age.

Catterick represented the club's senior side on 106 occasions, making his Premiership debut in 2010.

The former Barnard Castle School pupil came through the Falcons' academy system and represented England through the age-groups, going on to play international sevens for his country.

Catterick was instrumental in the Falcons winning the 2011 Premiership 7s finals, the versatile Co Durham native playing in every backline position for the club in the 15-a-side format.

Announcing his retirement, Catterick told the club's official website: "Well, what a journey it has been. The time has come for me to end my professional rugby career.

"I've managed to make a living from my hobby, and I'm so proud of that.

"I want to thank everyone I've met or played with for the past nine years for making the whole experience so incredible.

"I'm excited for what the future holds for me, and I wish Newcastle Falcons all the best.

"The club and the fans have always been incredible to me - it's such a great club and they're heading in a great direction. So that's it from me. I'm out onto the next chapter."

Newcastle Falcons director of rugby Dean Richards said: "Tom has been a fantastic servant for this club, and we thank him for all of those efforts down the years.

"We wish him all the best for whatever lies ahead, and I know those sentiments will be echoed by our supporters."

Mallett offers Etzebeth sage advice

Former Springbok head coach Nick Mallett has advised Stormers lock Eben Etzebeth to not let the opposition get under his skin.

Etzebeth was yellow-carded for raising his hand into Blues back-row Akira Ioane's face during a scuffle.

The Blues scored two tries in the 10 minutes the Stormers enforcer was off the field but luckily for Etzebeth it did not cost his side the game as the Stormers managed to come away with a hard-fought 30-22 win.

The 25-year-old made up for his indiscipline with a stellar performance upon his return to the field of play but Mallett believes his game will drastically improve if he conserves the energy he puts into off-the-ball scuffles.

“When Etzebeth came back on the field, he concentrated on taking the ball up with huge intensity and physicality and he won the contact battle by knocking Blues players backwards in the tackle,” Mallett told Supersport.

“Someone should advise him that he is going to be niggled by the opposition all the time because they know he reacts quickly. He should just put his hands up, turn around and walk away.

"Rather get angry inside yourself, so that the next time you carry the ball up or hit a ruck you really make them feel it. But all this pushing and shoving, where no one actually gets hit because it’s not a proper fight, is just a total waste of time.”

Scarlets stand by wing Evans

Scarlets head coach Wayne Pivac says they "will leave no stone unturned" at Steff Evans' disciplinary hearing following his red card.

Evans was sent-off for a tip-tackle against Leinster in their PRO12 semi-final on Friday, which puts his availability for the final in doubt.

Pivac revealed that the in-form finisher was massively upset at being given his marching orders as he thought it would cost his team.

Fortunately for player and region the Scarlets held on and won at the RDS and now tackle Munster at the Aviva Stadium in the final.

"He was devastated. Some people take that sort of incident on the chin," revealed Pivac when talking to BBC Sport about the wing.

"He was a broken man. He felt at the time he was sent off he might have cost the team an entire season's work.

"For a young player to feel like that it's an uncomfortable position to be in.

"He took it very hard and was probably the most relieved man in Dublin on Friday night.

"Personally I would like to think the sending off is sufficient because I know what he has been through on Friday night."

While he agreed it was a red card offence, Pivac stressed that the region will stand behind Evans and hope he can play in the final.

"Technically it was adjudged 100 percent right by the referee," he added.

"It's black and white these days, if you go over the horizontal, it's just then looking at what part of the body the player lands on.

"There is only millimetres in it, but his head hit the ground so it's a straight red card and we had no arguments.

"Our focus is representing Steff and making sure he gets the most help possible because we want him for the final."

Two players who definitely won't be involved in the final, however, are hooker Ken Owens and lock Jake Ball, who remain out injured.

Roux added to Ireland squad

Ireland have announced that Connacht lock Quinn Roux has been added to the squad that will travel to the USA and Japan for the June Tests.

The 26-year-old made his debut for Ireland on the June Tour to South Africa last year, starting in the second Test against the Springboks.

The 32-man squad will fly to New Jersey on June 5 ahead of their opening Test against the USA Eagles before flying to Japan for two Tests.