New Zealand v England: Kyle Eastmond handed Red Rose start for first Test
New Zealand v England: Bath star Kyle Eastmond starts in an inexperienced Red Rose backline for first Test
Bath Rugby’s Kyle Eastmond will start in an inexperienced backline for England’s first Test against New Zealand at Eden Park.
England head coach Stuart Lancaster has been able to retain just seven starters from their final game of the Six Nations outing against Italy in March with IRB protocols preventing 14 players from Northampton Saints and Saracens taking part.
It’s now a good opportunity for Kyle Eastmond to build on what he achieved in Argentina last summer
“We’ve had a good week’s training in Auckland and have prepared well and are ready for the massive challenge ahead,” said Lancaster. “It doesn’t get much bigger than playing New Zealand at Eden Park where they haven’t lost in 20 years but those selected know what they have to do.
“Billy Twelvetrees is recovering well from his ankle injury and should be available for the second Test and it’s now a good opportunity for Kyle Eastmond to build on what he achieved in Argentina last summer.”
Eastmond, a rugby league convert who will win just his third cap on Saturday, is partnered in the midfield by Leicester Tigers wrecking ball Manu Tuilagi.
Harlequins scrum-half Danny Care provides experience in the half-backs alongside Leicester-bound Freddie Burns, who is preferred at outside-half to Sale’s Danny Cipriani, who takes a place on the bench after six years in the international wilderness.
Harlequins full-back Mike Brown, the Six Nations player of the year, will look to build on a superb season and spur on London Irish wing Marland Yarde, winning just his third cap after missing the Six Nations through injury, and Gloucester’s Jonny May, who featured for England in the Six Nations.
Captain Chris Robshaw retains his place at openside flanker with James Haskell returning to the international fold for the first time in 12 month on the blindside and Ben Morgan retaining his place from the Italy game with Billy Vunipola ineligible for the first Test.
Leicester’s Geoff Parling is the beneficiary of the IRB protocols denying Northampton lock Courtney Lawes and he partners Wasps’ Joe Launchbury.
The front-row union sees Bath hooker Rob Webber start alongside club tighthead Dave Wilson with Quins prop Joe Marler on the loosehead.
“It’s great to welcome back Geoff Parling and James Haskell who have a lot of experience,” Lancaster added. “And equally it’s a fantastic opportunity for Joe Gray and Chris Pennell, who have really impressed in training, should they come off the bench for their first caps.”
Worcester Warriors full-back Chris Pennell and Harlequins hooker Joe Gray could both make their debuts if they come off the bench, which also includes Exeter Chiefs flanker Tom Johnson, Bath lock Dave Attwood and Leicester scrum-half Ben Youngs.
England XV to face New Zealand: Mike Brown (Harlequins); Marland Yarde (London Irish), ManuTuilagi (Leicester Tigers), Kyle Eastmond (Bath Rugby), Jonny May (Gloucester Rugby); Freddie Burns (Gloucester), Danny Care (Harlequins); Joe Marler (Harlequins), Rob Webber (Bath), David Wilson (Bath), Joe Launchbury (London Wasps), Geoff Parling (Leicester), James Haskell (Wasps), Chris Robshaw (Harlequins, captain), Ben Morgan (Gloucester).
Replacements: Joe Gray (Harlequins), Matt Mullan (Wasps), Henry Thomas (Sale Sharks), Dave Attwood (Bath), Tom Johnson (Exeter Chiefs); Ben Youngs (Leicester), Danny Cipriani (Sale), Chris Pennell (Worcester Warriors).