RFL rugby director Kevin Sinfield says injured Sam Burgess is “absolutely gutted” after being told he has no chance of playing on Great Britain’s historic tour of New Zealand and Papua Guinea.
The famous forward, 30, has been ruled out of the trip due to a shoulder issue which may yet require surgery.
South Sydney star Burgess is one of only a handful of current players - Sean O’Loughlin, James Graham and James Roby are the others - who have represented the Lions before having made his debut with them in 2007.
Great Britain has reformed for the first time since that home series against New Zealand and the Yorkshireman -who has been involved in much of the promotional work - was looking forward to facing Tonga in Hamilton on October 26.
The Lions then face the Kiwis on successive weekends in Auckland and Christchurch before rounding off against Papua New Guinea in Port Moresby.
Former Bradford Bulls star Burgess - who captained England in the 2017 World Cup final - was injured playing in Souths NRL semi-final defeat to Canberra Raiders just over a week ago but had been carried the problem for some time.
“It’s disappointing news - we’ve been waiting for it to be confirmed but had it confirmed this morning - that Sam Burgess will sadly be out of the tour,” said Sinfield, who also confirmed Gold Coast Titans centre Kallum Watkins (ribs) and Leeds Rhinos second-row Stevie Ward (hamstring) are also out of contention.
“Sam’s had an ongoing problem with his shoulder which everyone will be aware of playing in the NRL and he will miss out.
“It’s probably going to require surgery but again we’re waiting to confirm on that.
“There’s lots going on over in Australia and he’s absolutely gutted as are we.
“He’s just really disappointed. We've seen how special it is to all our players, Sam being one of the chosen few previously who has worn the Lions shirt and he did outstandingly in it.
“He’s gutted he will miss the opportunity and we are as well.”
It is the second successive season Burgess has had to miss the international calendar after pulling out of last year's home series with the Kiwis due to shoulder and wrist surgery.
Sinfield added: “Sam’s a real leader and a real big character and figure in that dressing room and on the field what he provides is world-class.
“We’ll certainly miss him but it will provide somebody else with an opportunity and hopefully they can grab it.”
The Lions 24-man squad is due to be announced on Monday with the squad flying out to Sydney - where they will link up with the England Nines squad - 48 hours later.
Eleven players who are in the England Nines squad have already been named for Great Britain.
They are James Graham, Gareth Widdop, Elliott Whitehead, Ryan Hall, Tom Burgess, Daryl Clark, Jack Hughes, Jake Trueman, Jermaine McGillvary, George Williams and Jake Connor.
Uncapped Liam Watts, the Castleford Tigers prop who was shortlisted for Man of Steel and earned Dream team recognition, is on stand-by for Wayne Bennett’s Lions.
Asked if he could come into contention to replace Burgess, Sinfield said: “There’s still a lot to be decided.
“You'd expect a fair contingent to be involved from the Grand Final at the weekend and depending how all that falls out, we’ll piece it together Sunday morning.
“We have a good idea of where we’re at. Wayne’s fully across everything and we’ve had six selectors hard at work pulling squads together so it’s probably been the most stringent selection process we’ve ever had.
“I think the squad that gets picked will be an excellent squad that is very representative of all of us and a real mix.”