England reunite centre pair
Published 18/06/2014 | 04:37
England have overhauled their backline for Saturday's final Test against New Zealand in Hamilton with Kyle Eastmond and Manu Tuilagi reunited in the centres.
The experiment of playing Tuilagi on the wing has been abandoned after just one match, although head coach Stuart Lancaster insists it will be revisited in the future.
Making his first start since the autumn, the revitalised Chris Ashton returns in the number 14 jersey for the Waikato Stadium encounter.
The Billy Twelvetrees and Luther Burrell partnership that flourished throughout the RBS 6 Nations has been disbanded following the 28-27 defeat in Dunedin that completed a series triumph for the All Blacks.
Instead, Eastmond and Tuilagi have been offered the stage to reproduce the fireworks that lit up Eden Park in the first Test in a selection Lancaster insists is based on form.
Twelvetrees has paid for his erratic display at the Forsyth Barr Stadium with Lancaster admitting it was a "big step" for him to play his first match since May 3 in that game.
Fitness was an issue for Twelvetrees having been sidelined by an ankle injury for six weeks, and while he will be given another chance at a later date, there is a sense that England are losing patience with the Gloucester playmaker.
"This is a reflection of us feeling that the centre partnership worked better in first Test than in he second," said Lancaster, who has picked Burrell on the bench.
"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."
Owen Farrell's tour-ending knee problem means Freddie Burns, another standout player at Eden Park, starts at fly-half with Ben Youngs holding off a strong challenge from Lee Dickson in the absence of shoulder-injury victim Danny Care.
"Freddie played well in the first Test and the challenge for him is to back that up with a comparable performance," Lancaster said.
Following a fine display in Tuesday's 38-7 victory over the Crusaders, Danny Cipriani has been chosen ahead of Stephen Myler to provide specialist cover at 10.
Lancaster admits he made the decision on the strength of Cipriani's game management at Christchurch's AMI Stadium as the once-troubled Sale playmaker continues his climb back up the pecking order.
"I was really pleased with Danny's 45 minutes against the Crusaders," said Lancaster, who admitted Myler had been a victim of the fixture congestion that marred preparations for the first Test.
"I needed to see Danny start and needed to see whether he could control and run a game as well as do the other bits and pieces. I thought he did that really well.
"The decision to pick Danny was only made after the game. I wanted to have a chance to sleep on it and look at it overnight."
Youngs was disappointing in the first Test, but Lancaster has been pleased with the half-back generalship he has displayed while Care has sat out training.
"I get the sense that Ben is approaching the player who played in November 2012 - he's shown that sort of character so that's why we're starting with him," Lancaster said.
Hooker Dylan Hartley, lock Courtney Lawes and number eight Billy Vunipola return to freshen up the pack with Rob Webber, Joe Launcbury and Ben Morgan dropping to the bench.
Geoff Parling continues in the second row with Lancaster describing him as England's "outstanding forward" in the series to far.
England team to face New Zealand:
M Brown (Harlequins); C Ashton (Saracens), M Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers), K Eastmond (Bath), M Yarde (Harlequins); F Burns (Leicester), B Youngs (Leicester Tigers); J Marler (Harlequins), D Hartley (Northampton Saints), D Wilson (Bath), C Lawes (Northampton Saints), G Parling (Leicester Tigers), T Wood (Northampton Saints), C Robshaw (Harlequins, capt), B Vunipola (Saracens).
Replacements: R Webber (Bath), M Mullan (Wasps), K Brookes (Newcastle Falcons), J Launchbury (Wasps), B Morgan (Gloucester), L Dickson (Northampton Saints), D Cipriani (Sale Sharks), L Burrell (Northampton Saints).