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Retallick unsure of England players

England have been gifted their team talk for Saturday's first Test against New Zealand after blundering All Black Brodie Retallick failed to correctly name a member of Stuart Lancaster's squad.

Asked if he knew any of the tourists ahead of the series opener at Eden Park, Retallick responded "a couple". When pressed for a name, the second row said "Michael Lawes".

Retallick appeared to be referring to Courtney Lawes, who is en route to New Zealand having helped Northampton win the Aviva Premiership final last weekend and consequently is unavailable for the first Test.

England will find the gaffe particularly galling as Retallick was in the starting XV when the All Blacks were demolished 38-21 at Twickenham in December 2012 in their only defeat since winning the 2011 World Cup.

It confirms the long-held suspicion that there is little awareness of European rugby among the southern hemisphere giants.

Local bookmakers have installed New Zealand as overwhelming 1/16 favourites to prevail at Eden Park with England rated 8/1 underdogs.

While the host nation is confident they will be celebrating a 15th successive All Blacks victory on Saturday, their prospects will have suffered after Kieran Read was ruled out of the game with concussion.

In a worrying development for the International Rugby Board player of the year, he reported a recurrence of the neurological symptoms that have troubled him for over a month.

Read - viewed as Richie McCaw's successor as All Blacks captain - made his comeback for the Crusaders on Saturday only to wake up on Monday morning "not feeling the best", according to New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen.

A doubt now hangs over the influential number eight's involvement in the entire series, while prolific wing Julian Savea is also a doubt for the opener due to a knee problem.

"We're not prepared to risk Kieran playing and that's our decision, not his, and we'll progress that day by day," Hansen said.

"Long term I'm not too concerned, but we're just not prepared risk him this week.

"He's frustrated, as you would be, but we're very lucky we've got capable people who can fill his place.

"Jerome Kaino and Victor Vito have been performing very well and Liam Messam is an incumbent. We've got some good people to step up."


From Belfast Telegraph