In the opening episode, he quipped, “No-one knew whether you were coming, you see” after his co-host’s stint in rehab in 2017.
However, McPartlin was then convicted of drink driving in April 2018, after a collision that took place in Richmond, London in March, and handed a £86,000 fine.
Speaking from the court, he said, “I let myself down, I let a lot of people down. For that I’m truly sorry.”
McPartlin pulled out of the remaining two episodes of Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway, as well as the live finals of Britain’s Got Talent – which Donnelly fronted solo.
While many speculated whether McPartlin would return to hosting I’m a Celebrity this year, it was confirmed in a statement in August that he would be stepping down from his presenting role for the first time in 15 years.
Ant McPartlin arrives at Wimbledon Magistrates Court
The statement read, “Ant McPartlin today announces he will continue to take a break from all television presenting roles until 2019. Ant will not present I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here! in November this year.”
The 2019 series of Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway was also shelved.
Days later, it was confirmed that Willoughby would be replacing McPartlin in the jungle for the 18th series.
“’I couldn’t be more excited to have been asked to stand alongside Dec for the next jungle adventure,” she said.
Holly Willoughby and Declan Donnelly in I’ma Celebrity Get Me Out of Here (ITV)
“I love Ant and want to send him my best wishes and support for a continued recovery. These are big shoes, not to fill, but just to keep warm for a little bit.”
‘Hol and Dec’, who are close friends, have recorded their first link teasing viewers ahead of the show’s first episode.
But with Willoughby admitting she’s “pretty much scared of everything”, how will she fare in the jungle?
I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here! launches Sunday at 9pm on ITV