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England unleash lethal weapons
“We’ve come here to win a Test series in New Zealand and we’ll come back with all guns blazing in Dunedin.”
That was England skipper Chris Robshaw’s battle cry after their gut-wrenching defeat in Auckland in the first Test against the world champions.
And head coach Stuart Lancaster has backed up those words with a bold team selection for the second Test in Dunedin on Saturday.
Despite a hugely impressive performance in the opening match by his young side, Lancaster has made five changes for the clash at the Forsyth Barr Stadium.
The men looking to unleash their ammo in the second Test are Danny Care, Owen Farrell, Billy Twelvetrees, Luther Burrell and Tom Wood.
They return after some desperately close selection calls, highlighting the depth of talent now available to England.
But the most eye-catching change is positional with Manu Tuilagi switching to the wing to accommodate the return of Burrell in midfield.
Using 17st 8lb wrecking ball centre Tuilagi out wide could be a masterstroke, with images of the 23-year-old storming upfield with a host of black shirts hanging off him still fresh in the mind.
His battle with opposite number Julian Savea, whose addition is the only change in the All Blacks side, will be one of the key clashes with New Zealand making no secret of their plan to test Tuilagi’s inexperience in the position at the very top level.
But wherever you look on the teamsheet there are match-ups which get the blood racing: McCaw v Robshaw (part II); Aaron Smith v Care; Nonu v Twelvetrees – take your pick, each battle in its own way will shape the contest.
Meanwhile, take a quick glance at England’s bench and it’s difficult to avoid looking slightly embarrassed at the riches now available.
Lock Courtney Lawes (just to reiterate Brodie Retallick, that’s Courtney, not Michael…), number eight Billy Vunipola and hooker Dylan Hartley will all be itching to get involved, while winger Chris Ashton returns to the fold.
NO PAIN, MUCH TO GAIN
For England fans who know their recent rugby history, there may also be some encouragement to be found at the venue for the second Test.
Dunedin’s famous Carisbrook – aka the House of Pain because of the suffering usually dished out to opponents there – was retired before the last World Cup.
Its replacement is the Forsyth Barr Stadium – which has hosted gigs by Aerosmith, Elton John and Paul Simon in the recent past and doesn’t have quite the same intimidating ring to it just yet.
England have already played and won three games there – once more than the All Blacks have managed themselves.
Get behind-the-scenes news from the England team on tour in New Zealand with Player Diary from O2 in partnership with England Rugby, at www.O2InsideLine.com