Sport

Published: Tuesday December 3, 2013 MYT 12:32:01 AM
Updated: Tuesday December 3, 2013 MYT 12:32:05 AM

England shorn of top players for first All Blacks test

LONDON (Reuters) - England have released the dates and venues for their 2014 three-test tour of New Zealand, confirming that they will take on the world champions in the first match without players involved in the Premiership final.

The three tests are in Auckland on June 7, Dunedin on June 14 and Hamilton on June 21 - with a midweek game against the Crusaders on June 17 in Christchurch.

The squad will depart on May 27 and, due to restricted training time and jet leg recovery protocol, anyone involved in the May 31 Premiership final will not be considered for the first test.

A repeat of last year's final between Leicester and Northampton could deprive coach Stuart Lancaster of around a dozen front line players.

France, Wales and Ireland will be faced with the same issue following the Top 14 and RaboDirect PRO12 finals on May 31 next year for their tours of Australia, South Africa and Argentina respectively.

England, beaten 30-22 by New Zealand at Twickenham last month, play them again next November and Lancaster recognises the importance of the forthcoming fixtures.

"To play the world champions in their own back yard is the ultimate test," he said in a statement.

"This is our final tour before the World Cup and is massively important for us to benchmark ourselves against the number one team in the world. Playing three tests and a midweek match will give us the opportunity to take 35 to 40 players who will get a chance to lay down a marker 15 months out from the World Cup."

(Reporting by Mitch Phillips, editing by Rex Gowar)

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