Lancaster now has some tough calls to make for the 2nd Test


What a performance that was from England to run the All Blacks so close in the First Test, particularly given their weakened squad and the All Blacks unbelievable record at Eden Park.

We said before the game that anything that gave the All Blacks a fright was a good result, and a 20-15 defeat, which took the home side until the 75th minute to secure, is certainly just that.

However, attention must quickly turn to the second test. The All Blacks will be angry and fired up, and they will improve – they have been slow starters to their Test season in recent years but have always improved dramatically for the second test. (Slow start is a relative term; they have not actually lost a game yet!)

The question for England though is what changes do they make? Before this Test it was obvious, basically the Northampton Saints players and Saracens players that missed the first test but played during the Six Nations would come in, now it is perhaps less certain – to a man their replacements performed outstandingly, what sort of message does it send to drop people off the back of a top performance?

Stuart Lancaster is also very big on ‘possession of the shirt’ this XV is now in possession.

Surely though, changes will be made – England will have to improve next week, after all they still lost and we can guarantee that the All Blacks will improve.

Prior to the 1st Test, the likely changes for the 2nd Test would have looked (something) like this:

England XV 1st Test


Likely England XV 2nd Test

Mike Brown


Mike Brown

Marland Yarde


Marland Yarde

Manu Tuilagi


Manu Tuilagi

Kyle Eastmond


Billy Twelvetrees/Luther Burrell

Jonny May


Jonny May

Freddie Burns


Owen Farrell

Ben Youngs


Danny Care

Joe Marler


Joe Marler

Rob Webber


Dylan Hartley

David Wilson


David Wilson

Joe Launchbury


Joe Launchbury

Geoff Parling


Courtney Lawes

James Haskell


Tom Wood

Chris Robshaw


Chris Robshaw

Ben Morgan


Billy Vunipola

When you look at those who were likely to be replaced, all had an outstanding game in the 1st Test. Kyle Eastmond’s dummy and step to scorch through the All Black defence was the best thing we’ve seen from an England 12 for a while. Freddie Burns had an outstanding game – and not just compared to what was feared.

Ben Morgan carried like a demon, James Haskell was the everywhere man and is in real form. Geoff Parling is a true leader, he was the man doing all the talking and he thinks his way through the game better than any of this England pack. Rob Webber had a stormer too, both in the set piece and the loose.

It will be no easy task for Stuart Lancaster to tell these guys that they are not involved next week, and in a few cases it might be an unjust one.

Who to change then?

It seems that Owen Farrell will definitely come in, regardless of Burns’ performance. He is the management’s man and rightly so. Outside him though, does Eastmond deserve another chance? Nobody else has really nailed down that 12 shirt and he certainly offers something. He might well have earned another go – particularly if Farrell’s reliable defence is now next to him. Luther Burrell may feel a bit put out to lose his shirt through no fault of his own, but that is Test rugby.

Danny Care will come in for Ben Youngs, Care was due to start anyway but for injury and he is very much the number one number nine at the moment. The other change worth considering in the backs is to bring someone in for Jonny May. May had his moments in the 1st Test but he remains someway short of a Test starter and you feel the All Blacks might try to target him in Dunedin.

The temptation for the management might be to recall Chris Ashton or to try Mike Brown or Ben Foden on the wing again. Anthony Watson might be a bolder call, it is best to see players in their correct positions and you feel that Ashton still has work to do to get his place back – despite his club form – Watson deserves his chance.

In the pack things really do get difficult, the quality in depth there is outstanding and anyone left out next week will be fuming. That said, players will have to be left out.

Rob Webber was excellent but it would be a surprise not to see the leadership and experience of Dylan Hartley in the side. However he is on the return from injury so if he is not fit to start there should be no concerns about Webber starting.

In the second row England have four top class options in Launchbury, Parling, Lawes, and Attwood. Joe Launchbury must retain his place as he is truly world class, but there will be big pressure to bring Courtney Lawes in for Geoff Parling given the season that Lawes has enjoyed. It must be tempting to keep Parling in there though, he offers an awful lot and is such an intelligent player.

The back row really is a nightmare, as a trio they were outstanding but in Tom Wood and Billy Vunipola there are two of England’s stand out players waiting to make their return to the side.

Prior to the 1st Test one would say that both would come in, for Morgan and Haskell, but following that pair’s performances in Auckland there must be enormous pressure to keep at least one of them in.

The temptation, if there is any, might be to bring Wood in for Haskell but to keep Morgan at number 8 with Billy Vunipola on the bench. The thinking being that Ben Morgan’s running really did cause problems for the All Blacks and his control at the base of the scrum was excellent.

More than that though, the All Blacks are the strongest team in the world in the last twenty minutes of games so the England bench will be crucial in stopping that late momentum. Vunipola is not a man they would like to see arriving on the field as the game begins to close.

Regardless, Stuart Lancaster and his team have some very big and very tough calls to make, you would envy them having to make those decisions. That said, it is a position that Lancaster will love, having quality to choose from and competition for places is a very, very healthy position.

One way or another, it will be an interesting England selection announcement.

Editor’s England 2nd Test XV:

15 Mike Brown

14 Marland Yarde

13 Manu Tuilagi

12 Kyle Eastmond

11 Anthony Watson

10 Owen Farrell

9 Danny Care

1 Joe Marler

2 Dylan Hartley

3 David Wilson

4 Joe Launchbury

5 Geoff Parling

6 Tom Wood

7 Chris Robshaw

8 Ben Morgan

Replacements: 16 Rob Webber 17 Matt Mullan 18 Henry Thomas 19 Courtney Lawes 20 Billy Vunipola 21 Ben Youngs 22 Freddie Burns 23 Luther Burrell.

How much might this selection change over the next few days? A lot, probably.

Who would you select for the 2nd Test? Let us know via the comment box below or via @FifteenRugbyXV

By Angus Savage


Available for the 2nd Test:

Chris Ashton (Saracens) 
Brad Barritt (Saracens) 
Luther Burrell (Northampton Saints) 
Lee Dickson (Northampton Saints) 
Owen Farrell (Saracens) 
Ben Foden (Northampton Saints) 
Alex Goode (Saracens) 
Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints) 
Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints) 
Stephen Myler (Northampton Saints) 
Kyle Sinckler (Harlequins) 
Billy Vunipola (Saracens) 
Alex Waller (Northampton Saints) 
Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby) 
Richard Wigglesworth (Saracens) 
Tom Wood (Northampton Saints)

Original 30-man squad:

Joe Marler (Harlequins)
Matt Mullan (London Wasps)
Nathan Catt (Bath Rugby) Kieran Brookes (Newcastle Falcons) 
Henry Thomas (Sale Sharks)
David Wilson (Bath Rugby) 
Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs)
Joe Gray (Harlequins)
Dave Ward (Harlequins)
Rob Webber (Bath Rugby) 
Dave Attwood (Bath Rugby)
Joe Launchbury (London Wasps)
Geoff Parling (Leicester Tigers)
Ed Slater (Leicester Tigers) James Haskell (London Wasps)
Tom Johnson (Exeter Chiefs)
Matt Kvesic (Gloucester Rugby)
Ben Morgan (Gloucester Rugby)
Chris Robshaw (Harlequins).

Danny Care (Harlequins)
Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers)
Freddie Burns (Gloucester Rugby)
Danny Cipriani (Sale Sharks) 
Kyle Eastmond (Bath Rugby)
Manusamoa Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers)
Henry Trinder (Gloucester Rugby)
Billy Twelvetrees (Gloucester Rugby) 
Jonny May (Gloucester Rugby)
Marland Yarde (London Irish) Mike Brown (Harlequins)
Chris Pennell (Worcester Warriors).

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