New Zealand v England: Stuart Lancaster set to name side for second Test
Last Updated: 11/06/14 11:23pm
Stuart Lancaster is expected to make several changes when he names his side for the second Test against New Zealand on Wednesday evening.
England performed heroically in Auckland in Saturday's first Test before their under-strength team, lacking players from Northampton and Saracens, went down 20-15 at Eden Park via Conrad Smith's 78th-minute try.
Although many of that XV will get the chance for revenge in Dunedin on Saturday, Lancaster will most likely make at least a handful of changes and bring in plenty of added experience on the bench.
Lancaster's biggest quandaries come at hooker and in the centres, especially the latter where Billy Twelvetrees and Luther Burrell are both available and challenging Manu Tuilagi and Kyle Eastmond for the starting spots.
Bath's Rob Webber will be hoping to fight off the challenge of Dylan Hartley in the middle of the front row after performing well in the opening Test defeat.
Tuliagi is a possibility to move to the wing, where he has not played since his junior days, but Jonny May should keep his place with Marland Yarde unless Lancaster opts to bring back Chris Ashton.
Owen Farrell is expected to start at fly-half and resume his partnership with Danny Care, who missed the Auckland clash with a shoulder injury he suffered in training. The Harlequins No 9 will replace Ben Youngs.
In the pack, Ben Morgan looks like holding on to his place in the back-row but Courtney Lawes is expected to come back in at lock alongside the impressive Joe Launchbury, while Tom Wood could replace James Haskell on the blindside.
Sky Sports expert Stuart Barnes admits that Lancaster has some tough decsions to make with his selections.
"What will England do with their selection? So many fringe players played their way back into the centre of things Saturday," he said. "Stuart Lancaster has to decide whether to reward some outstanding individual performances or revert to his more tried and tested team.
"In the front row, there is no question that Joe Marler will be named loose head and Dave Wilson tight. The Bath man was titanic in the tight although his handling was horrific. But what happens at hooker? Rob Webber was superb and Dylan Hartley has only played fifty minutes in quite some time?
"What about second row where Geoff Parling was magnificent? Does he deserve to be dropped for Courtney Lawes? And Ben Morgan for Billy Vunipola, James Haskell for Tom Wood? These are all dilemmas in the forwards.
"Behind the scrum things did not go the way of Ben Youngs and – if fit – Danny Care will definitely return. But should the in-form and goal-kicking Burns be left our Owen Farrell whose overall form and goal kicking has been patchy at the season’s tail end?
"Kyle Eastmond poses questions at inside centre. Options are myriad – to keep Saturday’s well balanced midfield, to revert to Twelvetrees and Burrell with Manu Tuilagi on the wing?"