Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Rugby: England spoiled for choice in Dunedin lineup

England's frustration on Saturday will need to be a weapon in Dunedin, says coach Stuart Lancaster. Photo / Brett Phibbs
England's frustration on Saturday will need to be a weapon in Dunedin, says coach Stuart Lancaster. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Choice, we heard, was going to be England's problem for the opening test. Cup ties and injury meant they did not have enough quality players to stay with the All Blacks.

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England have a bigger problem now.

After their pugnacious scrap at Eden Park they have snags deciding who to leave out and which reinforcements are vital for the second test in Dunedin.

On the opening evidence Ben Morgan, Geoff Parling, James Haskell, Rob Webber and Freddie Burns will do it tough if they are benched for the second inquisition.

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How they manage those personnel changes will be of massive interest to the All Blacks, although coach Steve Hansen said it would not alter how England played.

"Their game plan may vary by one or two degrees but basically we will get what we got. Maybe different faces, fresher faces, dunno," he said.

"He [Lancaster] might be very happy with what they did and keep them there.

"The issue with test rugby is, particularly in this country, where you are in the middle of a competition and have such a short period of time to gel together."

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The All Blacks needed to improve what they were trying to achieve while England coach Stuart Lancaster and his selectors will filter their playing roster.

"Through no fault of their own there were lads who had the shirt and sat in the stand and that needs to be taken into consideration as well as the performance we saw [on Saturday]," Lancaster said.

"For me it is about the bigger picture and it always is I guess, building towards the World Cup in 2015 and making sure people get experience and opportunities out here, but it has made it difficult."

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He thought the All Blacks would keep a similar side while England would make a "couple of changes" with the challenge to create cohesion in the new group.

Senior lock Courtney Lawes will deliver the snarling mobility to go with his setpiece prowess in much the way experienced hooker Dylan Hartley will up the pack's aggressive athleticism. There are also strong noises about flanker Tom Wood and he may shift the useful James Haskell.

Billy Vunipola has been a steam train at No8 with a powerful running game to bend defensive lines but a heavy season workload and Ben Morgan's outstanding work may leave that as the starting order.

Halfback Danny Care is on track to return from his shoulder problem and his speed will be a real weapon.

Owen Farrell, Billy Twelvetrees and Luther Burrell have been the go-to backline combination for England outside Care but that would eliminate Freddie Burns after his composed start and the physical menace of Manu Tuilagi.

The over-riding emotion in the England changing room had been "frustration" and they needed to bottle that and use it as a weapon in Dunedin.

- NZ Herald

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