Lancaster shaking up centre positions for New Zealand third test
Stuart Lancaster may return to basics for England’s third test against New Zealand, who are massively odds-on at 1/6 to win and record a clean sweep of victories. The head coach is set to make an abundance of changes to his team’s backline.
This match takes place in Hamilton’s Waikato Stadium and is a chance for the visitors to show what they can do against one of the best teams in the world before they go home. In the first two tests, England were largely impressive, showing resilience, and signs that they are starting to get it together as a team by recording very respectable results. They lost 20-15 in Aukland and were agonisingly beaten by one point in Dunedin, going down 28-27.
Despite these scorelines, England are still a generous 9/2 to record a victory, and Lancaster is set to make alterations. Kyle Eastmond, 22/1 to score first, and Manu Tuilagi, at 18/1, will pair up at centre, with Chris Ashton returning to the number 14 jersey.
Billy Twelvetrees partnered Luther Burrell there in the second test, but were largely inconsistent, making a handful of errors. It was the former’s first match since May 3, and the Gloucester playmaker has struggled with fitness in his recovery of an ankle injury.
Lancaster defended his selection of Eastmond and Tuilagi in his backline, saying: “This is a reflection of us feeling that the centre partnership worked better in the first Test than in the second.
“We are still finding out which players can and can’t really deliver at the highest level. We’ve had a good chance to look at Billy during the course of the season.
“Kyle’s had one opportunity and he’s taken it. Now’s the right time to give him a second chance. Billy wasn’t that far off it at the weekend, but when I look at the two games I thought Kyle edged him.”
Reflecting on the tour so far, Lancaster was generally positive in his press conference with gathered journalists, admitting progress has been made as a whole.
“We want to finish the tour and the season on a high and we have a fantastic opportunity on Saturday,” Lancaster continued. “Our aim was to win a Test series and we are disappointed that we haven’t but I am confident the players selected will go all out to achieve the win on Saturday.
“We have progressed as a squad during this tour and while there has been challenges with the end of season scheduling affecting selection it has been a great opportunity to work with a wider group of players and test many of them at the highest level in the build up to the World Cup.”
New Zealand’s Ben Smith who scored first in the second test is 10/1 to repeat that in Hamilton, as the All Blacks look to make it three out of three.