Stuart Lancaster faces England headache ahead of New Zealand tour

England head coach Stuart Lancaster faces a summer selection nightmare ahead of tour of New Zealand

England head coach Stuart Lancaster Photo: The Sport Review

Stuart Lancaster faces a summer selection nightmare for England’s tour of New Zealand as six players were ruled out in the space of 24 hours.

The England head coach already faces losing a number of star players for the opening match against the world champions on 7 June with many likely to feature in the Aviva Premiership final on 31 May.

Exeter Chiefs wing Jack Nowell, who made his debut in England’s triple crown-winning Six Nations campaign earlier this year has been ruled out with a knee problem with surgery expected to take place next week in London.

London Wasps wing Christian Wade has also been ruled out as have Leicester Tigers duo Tom Croft and Tom Youngs, the latter staying home to support his wife, while Northampton Saints prop Alex Corbisiero will not have enough game time to be considered for selection.

“Our thoughts are with Tom [Youngs] and Tiffany at this time and it is entirely right that he stays at home to support her and their daughter Maisie,” said Lancaster. “Everyone in the England squad sends them our best wishes.

“Alex and Tom [Croft] have worked really hard to come back before the end of the season but they will not have played enough rugby for them to be considered for such a tour.

“It’s the same with Christian Wade. They have all had significant injuries and their return to play has been carefully managed in conjunction with their clubs. It will be a short term loss but a long-term gain for us and their clubs as we enter a huge 18 months.

“Jack needs to get his knee sorted so he will be ready for next season and the World Cup and it’s the right decision for him to have the operation next week.”

Gloucester inside centre Billy Twelvetrees is also expected to miss out after picking up an ankle injury with no decision yet made on hooker Dylan Hartley who has been out for six weeks with a shoulder injury, but could still feature for Saints if they reach the Premiership final.

Possible replacements at hooker, David Paice (London Irish) and Rob Webber (Bath), also have injury concerns which could force Lancaster to consider uncapped trio Jamie George (Saracens) Dave Ward (Harlequins) and Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs) for at least the opening match and the mid-week match against Super Rugby side Crusaders.

George and Ward shared hooker duties in the England Saxons’ two matches in January against Ireland Wolfhounds and Scotland A, while Cowan-Dickie, 20, not yet a first-team regular for the Chiefs, has been tipped as a long-term England prospect.

With Saracens, Northampton and Leicester all due to compete in the Premiership semi-finals later this month along with Bath or Harlequins, ahead of the showpiece final at Twickenham, Lancaster is expected to leave it as late as possible to announce a squad of around 40 players to travel to New Zealand for three Test matches against the world’s number one nation.

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