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Lancaster plays down injury worries
Stuart Lancaster is refusing to use the number of injured England players as an excuse ahead of Saturday’s clash with the All Blacks. In the latest blow for Lancaster, lock Joe Launchbury has been ruled out of all four end of year Tests at Twickenham, including Saturday’s opener against New Zealand, because of a neck problem. His absence follows that of Geoff Parling, Alex Corbisiero, Mako Vunipola, Tom Youngs, Dan Cole, Ed Slater, Tom Croft and Manu Tuilagi, all also ruled out of the entire series.
Barritt relishing Test return
Recalled England centre Brad Barritt believes he is playing some of his best rugby and is relishing his return to the Test arena. The 28-year-old has represented England in 18 Tests but has been battling to overcome a foot injury and last started a Test in March 2013. His recent performances means that he is set to be in England’s run-on side against New Zealand at Twickenham on Saturday.
“I’ve been in great form,” Barritt told the BBC. “It’s great to be back in the England mix.”
Attwood is England’s latest concern
Having already lost Joe Launchbury for November, England may be without lock Dave Attwood for Saturday’s Test with New Zealand. Attwood and fiancée Bridget are expecting the couple’s first child, with the due date being last Friday.
The Bath second row is seen as a direct replacement for Launchbury in England’s engine room and has been in good form this season.
New Zeeland Rugby
SBW in doubt for England clash
New Zealand centre Sonny Bill Williams may miss next week’s game with England after agitating a thigh injury in Chicago. Williams scored two tries in an impressive return against the USA, making an impact in his first Test since 2012.
The cross-code star departed before the 60-minute mark with a corked thigh, but whether 100 percent healthy for England or not Williams doesn’t expect to waltz back into the All Blacks starting XV.
Slade and Parsons added to AB squad
James Parsons and Colin Slade will join up with the All Blacks for their November tour after Nathan Harris and Cory Jane were ruled out. The pair were injured in New Zealand’s 74-6 win over the USA, both coming off in the first half after scoring tries.
As a result Steve Hansen has decided to offer Blues hooker James Parsons a first call-up, with the 27-year-old already in the UK having featured for the Barbarians against Australia at Twickenham.
Lydiate back to 2012 shape – Edwards
Dan Lydiate is in his best shape since 2012 according to Shaun Edwards ahead of Wales’ first November Test against Australia. The flanker has been the subject of much speculation after featuring just four times for Racing Métro all season.
Last week it was confirmed that he would be leaving the Parisian club after dropping down the pecking order but despite not having played since September, Wales defence coach Edwards believes the Lions flanker is in good enough condition to feature against the Wallabies on Saturday.
Sexton fit but Best now a doubt
Jonny Sexton will be ready to take on the Springboks on Saturday but hooker Rory Best could be missing for Ireland. While Sexton was initially believed to be struggling with a tweaked hamstring, Ireland team manager Michael Kearney was confident he would be fit to play.
Ulster hooker Best is more of a concern however as he tries to overcome a tight calf, although there was better news about prop Mike Ross. Best is currently doing modified work in an attempt to be ready for the weekend, but if he were to miss out either Richardt Strauss or Sean Cronin would come in.
South African Rugby
Coetzee relishing Sarries challenge
Western Province coach Allister Coetzee is predicting an ‘incredible end to the season’ when his side face Saracens at Allianz Park on Sunday. Coetzee, who guided WP to success in the Currie Cup Final two weeks ago, expects a tough battle.
“We have the chance to play against Saracens in London – it’s an incredible end to the season,” he told Saracens’ official website. “There is obviously a strong South African flavour at Saracens, from the shareholders through to the players, and everybody can see the progress they have made in the past five-and-a-half years, becoming one of the most consistent and powerful clubs in Europe.”
“Their defence is admired, and now copied, around the rugby world, and we are expecting a massive challenge at Allianz Park.”
Murray wary of Boks’ physicality
Ireland scrum-half Conor Murray believes his side will lose if they try to match the Springboks’ physicality in Dublin on Saturday. The Six Nations champions will take on the Boks without injured stalwarts like loosehead prop Cian Healy and back-row Sean O’Brien but Murray believes that the duo’s absence will not alter the men from the Emerald Isle’s game-plan this weekend….read more here….