New Zealand v England: Billy Twelvetrees to miss first Test
New Zealand v England: Billy Twelvetrees looks set to miss the first Test due to an ankle injury
Billy Twelvetrees looks set to miss England’s first Test against New Zealand at Eden Park on Saturday after struggling to overcome an ankle injury.
The Gloucester inside centre, who picked up the injury last month, sat out the final practice session on Tuesday ruling him out of contention as head coach Stuart Lancaster names his team on Wednesday night.
It’s the ultimate challenge to come over here and play a three-Test series against New Zealand
The 13-times capped international is likely to see his jersey go to Kyle Eastmond, despite doubts over the Bath player’s fitness having not featured for his club since their Amlin Challenge Cup win over Wasps on 27 April and his last international cap coming on last summer’s tour of Argentina.
It’s another blow to England as they prepare to face the World Cup holders with out-of-sorts outside-half Freddie Burns handed the chance to orchestrate the game in the absence of Owen Farrell, Stephen Myler (ineligible for the first Test) and George Ford (shoulder surgery) while Danny Cipriani is not expected to in contention.
England were narrowly beaten 30-22 by the All Blacks in November, but handed them a surprise 38-21 defeat in 2012.
But, as with most nations in international rugby, their record in New Zealand leaves a lot to be desired with their last win coming in June 2003 as Jonny Wilkinson kicked four penalties and a drop-goal in a 15-13 win in Wellington.
Both squads are missing key players for the first test, but England lock Joe Launchbury believes England can take confidence from their upturn in fortunes during this year’s Six Nations in which they won the Triple Crown and just missed out on the title to Ireland.
“The way we have played against New Zealand in the last two matches has to give us confidence,” Launchbury said. “But so, too, do our more recent games because we really came on during the Six Nations
“After a shaky start we built really well and brought on our attacking game, but the next step now is to continue improving. We scored a few more tries in the Six Nations and hopefully that side of our game will continue.
“It’s the ultimate challenge to come over here and play a three-Test series against New Zealand.
“We’re aware of that and have been training with a slightly different group of players, but we’re excited about the weekend.”