Courtney Lawes was on Tuesday included in England’s 23-man squad for Saturday’s Twickenham Test against world champions New Zealand as coach Stuart Lancaster promised to meet the All Blacks’ challenge “head-on”.
Northampton lock Lawes, who returned from a knee injury in the Saints’ Premiership win against London Welsh on Saturday, has replaced South African-born Mouritz Botha.
The only other change to England’s match-day 23 from last weekend’s 16-15 loss to South Africa was the inclusion of uncapped Gloucester outside-half Freddie Burns in place of the injured Toby Flood.
England are yet to beat one of the major southern hemisphere nations under Lancaster, having lost twice and drawn once on tour in South Africa before a 20-14 loss to Australia at Twickenham earlier this month preceded last Saturday’s loss to the Springboks.
Those recent defeats by the Wallabies and the Springboks, combined with the form of France, mean 2015 World Cup hosts England will not be among the top four seeds when the draw for the next global showpiece takes place on Monday, whatever happens at the weekend.
But Lancaster, buoyed by the way in which his forwards matched South Africa’s pack, was in bullish mood even though New Zealand will arrive at Twickenham on a 20-match unbeaten run following their 33-10 win over Wales last weekend and with a record of nine successive Test victories over England behind them.
“The message is clear – last week we went toe-to-toe with the second best team in the world and felt we should have won,” said Lancaster.
“Now we have a chance to take on the No 1 side in front of a passionate Twickenham crowd, who have been fantastic throughout the QBE internationals, and it is a challenge we will meet head on,” he added.
Lancaster is due to name his starting XV on Thursday, with Owen Farrell in line to replace Flood at flyhalf.
England’s 23-man squad to play New Zealand:
Backs (10): Chris Ashton (Saracens), Brad Barritt (Saracens), Mike Brown (Harlequins), Freddie Burns (Gloucester), Danny Care (Harlequins), Owen Farrell (Saracens), Alex Goode (Saracens), Jonathan Joseph (London Irish) Manu Tuilagi (Leicester), Ben Youngs (Leicester)
Forwards (13): Alex Corbisiero (London Irish), Dan Cole (Leicester), James Haskell (Wasps), Joe Launchbury (Wasps), Courtney Lawes (Northampton), Ben Morgan (Gloucester), David Paice (London Irish), Geoff Parling (Leicester), Chris Robshaw (Harlequins, captain), Mako Vunipola (Saracens), David Wilson (Bath), Tom Wood (Northampton), Tom Youngs (Leicester)