Sport International Rugby

Friday 29 August 2014

Lancaster wants closer look at midfield options

Published 19/06/2014 | 02:30

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Manu Tuilagi will partner Kyle Eastmond against New Zealand on Saturday as England coach Stuart Lancaster assesses his options at centre. Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images
Manu Tuilagi will partner Kyle Eastmond against New Zealand on Saturday as England coach Stuart Lancaster assesses his options at centre. Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images

Stuart Lancaster has been plotting his way towards next year's World Cup for two years, but the great conundrum of English rugby – the red-rose midfield – remains unsolved.

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Lancaster has dropped both his Six Nations centres, Billy Twelvetrees and Luther Burrell, for Saturday's last hurrah against the All Blacks in Hamilton and if the fresh combination of Kyle Eastmond and Manu Tuilagi click as well as they did in Auckland a dozen days ago, it will lead to a major reassessment of his options.

Twelvetrees, the one truly creative spirit in the back division, made several mistakes too many during Saturday's one-point defeat in Dunedin and has paid a price.

Burrell, meanwhile, will take little comfort from being among the replacements.

The Northampton centre missed the Auckland Test after arriving late on tour due to the Premiership final and while he returned to the starting line-up in Dunedin, he could not reproduce his Six Nations form and finds himself back behind Tuilagi in the pecking order.

"The truth is that we're still finding out who can deliver at the highest level," Lancaster said.

"We've had a good chance to look at Twelvetrees, while Eastmond took his opportunity in Aukland, so we think now is the right time to give him a second go."

England: M Brown, C Ashton, M Tuilagi, K Eastmond, M Yarde, F Burns, B Youngs, J Marler, D Hartley, D Wilson, C Lawes, G Parling, T Wood, C Robshaw (capt), B Vunipola. Reps: R Webber, M Mullan, K Brookes, J Launchbury, B Morgan, L Dickson, D Cipriani, L Burrell.

New Zealand: B Smith, C Jane, M Fekitoa, Ma'a Nonu, J Savea, A Cruden, A Smith, T Woodcock, D Coles, O Franks, B Retallick, S Whitelock, J Kaino, R McCaw (capt), K Read. Reps: K Mealamu, W Crockett, C Faumuina, P Tuipulotu, L Messam, TJ Perenara, B Barrett, R Crotty.

Irish Independent

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