Selection dilemmas for Lancaster
7:21am Wednesday 11th June 2014 in © Press Association 2014
Stuart Lancaster will reveal the most intriguing team selection of his two-and-a-half-year reign as head coach on Wednesday night, as England seek to extend their series against New Zealand to a decider.
Question marks hang over the identity of hooker, inside centre and wing for the second Test at Forsyth Barr Stadium, with Lancaster pondering how many of his Aviva Premiership finalists to draft into the 23.
It appears a 50-50 call in the number two jersey with Rob Webber's fine performance in the 20-15 defeat at Eden Park offset by the credit in the bank stored by Dylan Hartley during a successful RBS 6 Nations.
The most challenging puzzle facing England is the midfield conundrum now that Billy Twelvetrees, Manu Tuilagi and Luther Burrell are fully fit, available and chasing two positions.
Lancaster favours a ball-playing option at inside centre such as Twelvetrees, but the Gloucester man has been out for six weeks with an ankle injury.
Burrell was one of England's star performers in the Six Nations and demands inclusion on form, while Tuilagi is the team's most potent attacking force.
Serious consideration has been given to placing Tuilagi on the wing at the expense of Jonny May, but, as the 23-year-old has not played there since junior rugby, asking him to step up for the first time against the All Blacks would be a major gamble.
It is a fascinating call and possibly the hardest Lancaster has faced since replacing Martin Johnson in 2011. Another option is to drop May and place Chris Ashton on the wing with Marland Yarde a guaranteed starter.
England will have greater clarity in other positions, with Ben Morgan's heroics in Auckland demanding his selection ahead of Billy Vunipola and Courtney Lawes certain to resume his dynamic partnership with Joe Launchbury in the second row.
Tom Wood will oust James Haskell with the brutish Wasps blindside flanker adding valuable firepower from the bench, and Owen Farrell is an automatic pick at fly-half.
Farrell will be joined at half-back by Danny Care, who has recovered from the shoulder injury sustained during a freak training-ground accident last week.
"I played in the Six Nations for the first time with Danny and loved it," Farrell said.
"He's obviously a world-class player and someone who can take any opportunity that comes.
"Not only that but he can make something out of nothing. To be able to play off the back of that is huge. Danny's a brilliant player."