Mike Catt admits England’s coaching team face the toughest of selection meetings as they finalise plans for the second Test against New Zealand.
With so many players making compelling cases for their retention in Saturday’s agonising 20-15 loss at Eden Park, myriad permutations have opened up as the Aviva Premiership finalists come into contention for the first time. The identity of England’s hooker, lock, blindside flanker, scrum-half, wing and inside centre will be causing Stuart Lancaster and his coaches headaches. The team is announced tomorrow night, leaving just two training sessions to reach a verdict.
“We performed particularly well on the weekend. It will be a tough selection because a lot of them performed admirably,” attacking skills coach Catt said.
“Some people will be very happy and some won’t because we have competition in all these positions now. What you don’t want to do is give the jersey up. That drives you even further and motivates you even more.
“I remember when I used to compete with Will Greenwood. If I lost my spot or performed badly, I’d have to wait six months before I got another opportunity.
“That’s the beauty of this England team at the moment. It’s starting to have that level of competition for places, so no-one wants to give up their shirts.
“By the end of the tour we’ll have a clear idea of the people who can and can’t perform at international level.” One option being considered is shifting Manu Tuilagi to the wing to accommodate the availability of Luther Burrell and Billy Twelvetrees. Tuilagi has never played out wide for England and only rarely for Leicester, but it was a position he filled as a junior.
“It’s about whatever’s best for the team. It’s not about development, it’s about this weekend,” Catt said. “If it’s right to put Manu on the wing, we’ll put him on the wing. We’ve got a couple of training sessions over the next couple of days to make a decision. Nothing is set in stone and there are a lot of permutations. Manu was extremely good at attacking at the weekend. He was a massive attacking threat and you need that against a top All Blacks side.”
England have announced that Exeter hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie is to return home for further assessment on a knee injury after jarring the joint in training. Cowan-Dickie was never in contention to play in the Test series against the All Blacks, but could have figured in the midweek game against the Crusaders.