England have confirmed the group of 23 players that will take on New Zealand on Saturday after releasing fifteen players back to their clubs.
The twenty three are largely the same as those who faced Argentina last week, the only changes are Ben Youngs coming back in for Danny Care after recovering from injury, and Matt Mullan replacing Alex Corbisiero, who is having problems with his knees again.
Christian Wade and Marland Yarde are both still injured, meaning that Ben Foden and the much maligned Chris Ashton will almost certainly start on the wings again.
Indeed it seems likely that the entire backline will stay the same, the only real competition is likely to be between Lee Dickson and Ben Youngs for the scrum half berth but it would be a surprise to see Dickson miss out after starting the last two Tests.
Mullan is the beneficiary of a desperate run of luck for England in the loosehead department. Mullan was not even originally included in the England Saxons squad, however with Corbisiero and Mako Vunipola both succumbing to injury, and Nick Wood, the only loosehead in the Saxons squad, only finished his eight week ban for stamping today, Mullan will likely find himself making an appearance on the England bench on Saturday.
The loosehead crisis could have been even worse for England; Joe Marler had to come off at half time against Argentina with concussion and there were concerns that he might not be available for this weekend, which would have left England really scraping the barrel. However having gone through the back to play protocols successfully the Harlequins prop is fit to play.
One surprising aspect of Englandâ€™s preparation has been the decision not to bring any of the Saxons wingers into the wider squad given that Chris Ashton is the only fit and available wing in the EPS.
When Ben Foden was drafted in on the wing last week Stuart Lancaster explained that it was because they had not had an opportunity to look at any other options because they had not trained with the squad.
While Foden deserves to retain his place in the squad it does seem a little odd that the likes of Charlie Sharples, David Strettle, Jonny May, or Ugo Monye were not called up to train â€“ particularly given that England knew Wade and Yarde were still doubtful.
It seems that few are likely to suffer for Englandâ€™s rather dreary second half performance against Argentina, our prediction is that there will only be one change.
Who would you pick to start against the All Blacks though? Is there anyone who has been released that you would rather have seen retained? We would love to hear your view ahead of the announcement of the team at 10.45 on Thursday; you can contact us via Twitter (@FifteenRugbyXV) or by commenting below.
Predicted England XV:
Mike Brown, Chris Ashton, Joel Tomkins, Billy Twelvetrees, Ben Foden, Owen Farrell, Lee Dickson; Joe Marler, Dylan Hartley, Dan Cole, Joe Launchbury, Courtney Lawes, Tom Wood, Chris Robshaw (c), Billy Vunipola.
England Squad v New Zealand
Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers) Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints) Joe Launchbury (London Wasps) Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints) Joe Marler (Harlequins) Ben Morgan (Gloucester) Matt Mullan (London Wasps) Geoff Parling (Leicester Tigers) Chris Robshaw (Harlequins) Billy Vunipola (Saracens) David Wilson (Bath) Tom Wood (Northampton Saints) Tom Youngs (Leicester Tigers).
Chris Ashton (Saracens) Mike Brown (Harlequins) Lee Dickson (Northampton Saints) Owen Farrell (Saracens) Toby Flood (Leicester Tigers) Ben Foden (Northampton Saints) Alex Goode (Saracens) Joel Tomkins (Saracens) Billy Twelvetrees (Gloucester) Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers).
Released to Clubs:
Dave Attwood (Bath) Freddie Burns (Gloucester) Luther Burrell (Northampton Saints) Danny Care (Harlequins) Alex Corbisiero (Northampton Saints) Kyle Eastmond (Bath) Tom Johnson (Exeter Chiefs) Matt Kvesic (Gloucester) Henry Thomas (Sale Sharks) Henry Trinder (Gloucester) Mako Vunipola (Saracens) Marland Yarde (London Irish) Rob Webber (Bath) Christian Wade (London Wasps) Anthony Watson (Bath).