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New Zealand v England, 3rd Test
Ashton back as England ring changes
Tom Hamilton in Hamilton
June 19, 2014
Chris Ashton catches the ball as skills coach Mike Catt holds the tackle bag, Christchurch, June 19, 2014
Chris Ashton catches the ball as skills coach Mike Catt holds the tackle bag during England's training session in Christchurch © Getty Images
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England have returned to their first Test centre partnership ahead of Saturday's game in Hamilton as Stuart Lancaster makes seven changes.

Manu Tuilagi is back in his familiar position at outside centre where he is partnered by Kyle Eastmond. Tuilagi's shift inside sees Chris Ashton start his first Test for England since November 2013 with Marland Yarde and Mike Brown keeping their places in the back three. Luther Burrell is the back five cover on the bench.

"We've looked at the performances over the two tests and felt it was a big step for Billy Twelvetrees to come back after being out for so long," Lancaster said. "He hadn't played since the May 3. For Luther, too, it was a big step to play at that level.

England continue to test the water

  • Rugby works in mysterious ways. At the end of the Aviva Premiership season, the two fly-halves in the England squad for Saturday's game were probably fourth and fifth in the pecking order. Yet here we are two days out from the final Test in Hamilton and both will play a key role in whatever transpires at the Waikato Stadium on Saturday.
  • The logistical difficulties around that Premiership final have had an increasing influence on this tour and it is something Lancaster never wants a repeat of. "Further down the line hopefully we'll not be in the same situation where I am making decisions on form and fitness with players having staggered ends to the season." That staggered ending is personified in the fly-half selection.
  • Read the comment on the third Test selection here

"So, looking at Kyle and Manu again in the third Test will give us the form they showed in the first test with Luther as an option from the bench and potentially at 12 to go alongside Manu. It is more form than anything else."

Danny Care has not trained all week due to his shoulder injury so he misses out with Ben Youngs partnering Freddie Burns at half-back. Danny Cipriani's performance on Tuesday night against the Crusaders has earned him a spot on the bench alongside Lee Dickson.

In the pack Courtney Lawes, Dylan Hartley and Billy Vunipola both earn their first starts of the tour at the expense of Joe Launchbury, Rob Webber and Ben Morgan respectively with the rest of the engine room retained from the second Test in Dunedin.

And despite the heartbreak of that one point loss, Lancaster is adamant his team have refocused and are ready to finish their time in New Zealand with a Test victory.

"We want to finish the tour and the season on a high and we have a fantastic opportunity on Saturday. Our aim was to win a Test series and we are disappointed that we haven't. We have progressed as a squad during this tour and while there has been challenges with the end of season scheduling affecting selection it has been a great opportunity to work with a wider group of players and test many of them at the highest level in the build up to the World Cup."

England: Mike Brown, Chris Ashton, Manu Tuilagi, Kyle Eastmond, Marland Yarde, Freddie Burns, Ben Youngs; Joe Marler, Dylan Hartley, David Wilson, Courtney Lawes, Geoff Parling, Tom Wood, Chris Robshaw (captain), Billy Vunipola

Replacements: Rob Webber, Matt Mullan, Kieran Brookes, Joe Launchbury, Ben Morgan, Lee Dickson, Danny Cipriani, Luther Burrell

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
Tom Hamilton is the Associate Editor of ESPNscrum.

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