England prepare plan B if Dave Atwood is unavailable to face All Blacks

Head coach Stuart Lancaster admits that he may be forced into a late change in the second row against New Zealand on Saturday

Stuart Lancaster has been forced to reconsider England’s second row options, with Dave Atwood potentially unavailable for Saturday’s clash with the All Blacks at Twickenham.

Bath lock Atwood, earlier revealed likely to start alongside Courtney Lawes after Joe Launchbury was ruled out, could have to rush off to be with fiancee Bridget, who is expecting their first child.

“There might be a scenario, but we’ll have to wait and see nearer the time. We’ll have to have a plan B,” Lancaster said.

“I don’t think Dave can assure me when the baby is going to be due. The due date was actually last Friday, so we’ll see.”

Saracens’ uncapped 24-year-old lock George Kruis and Leicester Tigers lock Graham Kitchener—who captained an England XV against the Barbarians in June and was called up as Launchbury’s replacement—have been placed on standby.

For Lancaster, it’s not the first time this year that his plans have been disrupted by births, and he is prepared to excuse Atwood if necessary despite the loss of a trio of locks in Launchbury, Geoff Parling and Ed Slater.

“Obviously you want to be sensible about these things,” he added.

“You want to put the family first, but equally I know Dave’s keen to play as well. We’ll just have to wait and see how Mother Nature takes her course.

“We had the same situation with Joe Marler before the Six Nations game against Italy. Joe’s partner went into labour before we flew to Rome, so we made the decision to leave him at home. You have to react closer to the game.”

Lancaster also revealed that Saracens outside-half Owen Farrell looks to be free of his recent thigh injury and it appears that he will start against the All Blacks ahead of Bath’s George Ford.

Bath centre Kyle Eastmond also looks certain to get the nod ahead of Gloucester captain Billy Twelvetrees at inside centre after recovering from a rib injury picked up against Glasgow Warriors in the European Champions Cup last month.

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