- Stuart Lancaster names six from last outing for Eden Park Test
- Kyle Eastmond and Manu Tuilagi start in the centres against the All Blacks
Kyle Eastmond will start at inside centre for England in the first Test against New Zealand in Auckland, with seven starters remaining from the last RBS 6 Nations outing against Italy.
England Head Coach Stuart Lancaster is shorn of players from Aviva Premiership finalists Northampton Saints and Saracens for the opening game of the three-Test series, meaning only captain Chris Robshaw, Mike Brown, Joe Launchbury, Jonny May, Ben Morgan and David Wilson make back-to-back starts.
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The only exception is Saints scrum half Lee Dickson, who is promoted to the bench after Danny Care failed to recover from a shoulder injury sustained in training earlier in the week. British and Irish Lions scrum half Ben Youngs, who has played New Zealand on three previous occasions, starts in the No.9 shirt.
Bath Rugby centre Eastmond, who made his only Test start in Argentina last summer, replaces Billy Twelvetrees, who is not yet fit after an end-of-season ankle injury. The 24 year-old rugby league convert will start outside fly half Freddie Burns after their effective combination on the tour to South America last summer.
James Haskell’s muscular presence returns to blindside flanker after a 12-month international absence, while British and Irish Lions Geoff Parling and Manu Tuilagi reappear at lock and outside centre respectively.
Another physical force, Marland Yarde, also returns on the right wing after missing the 2014 RBS 6 Nations through injury. Uncapped hooker Joe Gray and full back Chris Pennell make first appearances on the bench too.
The All Blacks have a formidable record at Eden Park, a 31-game winning streak which stretches back to 1994. But far from cowed by the prospect, Lancaster is satisfied with his side’s preparation ahead of an acid test of their progress.
Photo: Getty Images
He said: “We’ve had a good week’s training in Auckland and have prepared well and are ready for the massive challenge ahead. It doesn’t get much bigger than playing New Zealand at Eden Park where they haven’t lost in 20 years but those selected know what they have to do.
“Billy Twelvetrees is recovering well from his ankle injury and should be available for the second Test and it’s now a good opportunity for Kyle Eastmond to build on what he achieved in Argentina last summer.
“It’s great to welcome back Geoff Parling and James Haskell who have a lot of experience and equally it’s a fantastic opportunity for Joe Gray and Chris Pennell, who have really impressed in training, should they come off the bench for their first caps.
“We’ve had lots of messages of support and I am sure the players will be giving their all at the start of this three test series."
England team to face New Zealand
First Test, Steinlager Series, Eden Park, Saturday, June 7, 7.35pm NZST/8.35am BST
15 Mike Brown (Harlequins, 26 caps)
14 Marland Yarde (London Irish, 2 caps)
13 Manusamoa Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers, 22 caps)
12 Kyle Eastmond (Bath Rugby, 2 caps)
11 Jonny May (Gloucester Rugby, 6 caps)
10 Freddie Burns (Gloucester Rugby, 3 caps)
9 Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers, 35 caps)
1 Joe Marler (Harlequins, 19 caps)
2 Rob Webber (Bath Rugby, 5 caps)
3 David Wilson (Bath Rugby, 34 caps)
4 Joe Launchbury (London Wasps, 19 caps)
5 Geoff Parling (Leicester Tigers, 19 caps)
6 James Haskell (London Wasps, 50 caps)
7 Chris Robshaw (Harlequins, capt, 25 caps)
8 Ben Morgan (Gloucester Rugby, 20 caps)
16 Joe Gray (Harlequins, uncapped)
17 Matt Mullan (London Wasps, 3 caps)
18 Henry Thomas (Sale Sharks, 6 caps)
19 Dave Attwood (Bath Rugby, 10 caps)
20 Tom Johnson (Exeter Chiefs, 7 caps)
21 Lee Dickson (Northampton Saints, 16 caps)
22 Danny Cipriani (Sale Sharks, 7 caps)
23 Chris Pennell (Worcester Warriors, uncapped)
New Zealand tour fixtures
(live on SkySports HD, all games 1935 NZST/0835 BST)
Saturday, June 7: First Test – Eden Park, Auckland
Saturday, June 14: Second Test – Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin
Tuesday, June 17: Crusaders – AMI (Addington) Stadium, Christchurch
Saturday, June 21: Third Test – Waikato Stadium, Hamilton