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Lancaster demands schedule changes

Stuart Lancaster insists the disruptive fixture congestion that undermined England's quest for a maiden series victory in New Zealand must never be repeated.

Prolific wing Julian Savea led the rout as the All Blacks romped to a 3-0 whitewash in Saturday's final Test by posting a 36-13 victory at the Waikato Stadium.

It was an inglorious conclusion to a series that began with England having to prepare for the opening Test without their Aviva Premiership finalists from Northampton and Saracens.

Eden Park offered the best platform to claim a prized All Blacks scalp and while Lancaster was keen not to retreat behind excuses, rugby's ultimate challenge had clearly been turned into mission impossible.

"To not have your first choice team available was obviously a huge challenge for the first Test and it had a subsequent knock-on effect on selection," he said.

"We can all sit here and talk about changes to the side but everyone in the know knows why those changes were made.

"This scheduling issue has to be sorted and can't be repeated. It is unfair on the players."

England's coaches will spend much of the summer ruminating on an abysmally error-ridden first-half in Hamilton that gifted New Zealand victory.

All Blacks wing Cory Jane revealed that he felt some of the tourists were already thinking of their summer holidays as Savea and Aaron Smith plundered two tries each.

Lancaster denies Jane's claim, insisting England were emotionally ready for the climax to the series, but admits memories of the Hamilton ordeal will linger over the coming weeks.

"That first half performance wasn't good enough and it's a long time until November," said Lancaster.

"It's probably not dissimilar to how New Zealand felt two years ago when they came to Twickenham and lost that game.

"What's important is that we take these lessons and the players get a decent rest as they've had a long season, particularly those who played on the back of the Lions. They need a rest.

"It's about applying lessons and making sure the players are aware what is required to win at the highest level."

Once the frustration of the Waikato Stadium setback has subsided, Lancaster will reflect on a series that was not without its highlights.

New Zealand is the sport's most unforgiving touring destination, yet the All Blacks were pushed close in the first Test and over-run in the opening half of the second.

There were even some pleasing moments in Hamilton after half-time after Lancaster had read the riot act to his under-performing players.

"That final scoreline is obviously 3-0, but in terms of the competitiveness between the teams it's been very even for much of the time," Lancaster said.

"In the first game it was nip and tuck throughout and neither side edged it one way or the other.

"In the second game there was a period when the All Blacks had the ascendency, but we had the ascendency in the first half and played some great rugby.

"The difference between the All Blacks and ourselves is when they have periods of ascendency they convert that into points.

"When we're in the same position, we perhaps didn't do that."

Lancaster traditionally updates his Elite Player Squad on July 1 but is hoping to have that date pushed back given England's next match - against New Zealand in the autumn - is four months away.

"We still have some work to do with Premiership Rugby to try and determine when the start date for the EPS is," he said.

"For me, the later the better because you are picking a squad now for games in November.

"You pick a squad now but when you get to November some players have fallen in and out of form and that is challenging."


From Belfast Telegraph