England sweat on Hartley's fitness
May 19, 2014
Dylan Hartley's recovery from a shoulder injury is taking longer than expected © Getty Images
Hartley has been out of action since March and despite hopes he was going to return in time to play some part in Northampton's end-of-season run-in, he was not included in the squad for last Friday's Aviva Premiership semi-final win over Leicester.
With Hartley out injured, Rob Webber has been brought into the England mix but he too is recovering from injury after he picked up a knock to the knee earlier this month. If Webber is not fit to face New Zealand, then it is likely Lancaster will hand either Dave Ward or Luke Cowan-Dickie their Test debut on June 7.
"Dylan, as you've heard from [Northampton director of rugby] Jim Mallinder, is making slower progress than hoped for with his shoulder," Lancaster said. "We'll monitor that with Northampton throughout the week and make a decision on him before we fly [next Tuesday]. We'll wait and see how it plays out.
"With Tom Youngs, Dylan and David Paice out of the equation, if Dylan isn't going to be fit and Webber is 50/50, there will definitely be an opportunity for a hooker without much experience."
In better news for England, Lancaster is optimistic over Mike Brown's prospects after he picked up a hamstring injury on Saturday.
"Mike won't train this week, but we're quite optimistic that he will be training next week. We fly on Tuesday," Lancaster said. "So I don't think there will be any concern over him going into the first Test."
Lancaster also hopes Billy Twelvetrees will be fit for the first Test after he picked up an ankle injury back on May 3 while on Gloucester duty.
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