New Zealand v England: Stuart Lancaster hails Red Rose depth
New Zealand v England: Stuart Lancaster talks up the competition for places in his Red Rose squad
Stuart Lancaster has hailed the competition for places in his England squad after making five changes to his starting XV for Saturday’s second Test against New Zealand in Dunedin.
The England head coach saw a weakened team lose 20-15 to the world champions last weekend as a 78th-minute Conrad Smith try finally broke through a solid defensive display.
“We knew selection for this Test was always going to be tough
But the belief in the camp—with the Aviva Premiership final players now available to play—is that England can keep the series alive for the third Test in Hamilton on 21 June.
“It’s been evident in training just how intense competition for places is but especially now we have the guys who arrived at the end of last week,” Lancaster said.
“We knew selection for this Test was always going to be tough, with the players who played at Eden Park putting their hands up and those who watched from the stands.”
The big talking point from Lancaster’s reworked backline is the deployment of Leicester Tigers centre Manu Tuilagi on the right wing despite an impressive performance in his usual outside centre berth in the first Test.
As expected, Lancaster recalled his first-choice half-back combination of Owen Farrell and Danny Care with his Six Nations midfield pairing of Luther Burrell and Billy Twelvetrees also back making it possible to gamble with Tuilagi in an unfamiliar position for him at Test level.
“The notion of moving Manu came six to 12 months ago,” Lancaster added. “I had seen him there as an age-grade player and how effective he was, but we have to be careful not to suggest we are basing our whole game plan around one player, because we are certainly not.”
If Tuilagi’s positional switch had been one of the most talked about possibilities after the first Test, only one change in the forwards was never on the radar with Dylan Hartley, Courtney Lawes and Billy Vunipola set to be at Lancaster’s disposal.
Of the eight forwards who started at Eden Park, only blindside flanker James Haskell has been dropped with Northampton Saints flanker Tom Wood returning.
Hartley, Lawes and Vunipola all have to settle for a place on the bench, but Lancaster has insisted that the series is a squad effort and everyone will get a chance.
“I am sure it will be a fantastic occasion in Dunedin and we are really looking forward to challenging ourselves against the All Blacks,” he said.
“With the Crusaders game coming up around the corner and the third Test in Hamilton, all our squad will get opportunities which will be great experience as we continue to develop our depth in the build up to the World Cup.”