ENGLAND head coach Stuart Lancaster believes his side are better equipped to compete with the All Blacks now than during their summer tour of New Zealand despite a crippling injury list.
Second row Joe Launchbury became the latest forward to be ruled out of the QBE Series as England head into the opening clash against the world champions at Twickenham on Saturday with a depleted pack.
But Lancaster is not prepared to allow any excuses to seep into England’s mindset, with the 45-year-old adamant his charges can overcome the catalogue of injury setbacks and land considerable blows on their southern hemisphere rivals.
“We’re in a better position now than we were in the last Test against New Zealand,” said Lancaster. “The players who are here have trained very well.
“They had a great week last week and they’ll have another good week of learning this week. We’re very confident with the players we have. There are a lot of players who are playing well and who will be ready for Saturday.”
Launchbury’s injury means Courtney Lawes and Dave Attwood are likely to form the second-row partnership on Saturday, with George Kruis offering cover from the bench.
England have also received a front-row boost with the news props Joe Marler and David Wilson are both fit to face New Zealand, with Lancaster insistent his injury woes will have more positive repercussions down the line.
“If anything, this will strengthen our depth in the long term and create opportunities in the short term,” added Lancaster. “It’s an uncontrollable so we’ve just got to get on with it.
“The good thing is it opens up opportunities for others to put down a marker. It is often the case that you bring lads in and they step up. When we get them all back for the Six Nations and the World Cup camp there will be some real selection problems.”