Andrew faces tricky equation at No 8 after injury rules out Easter

Nick Easter, the first-choice England No 8 who captained the side against the Barbarians at Twickenham last weekend, will miss the forthcoming Test series with the All Blacks because of a fractured right hand. Easter suffered the injury during the Baa-Baas game – presumably during the natural run of play, rather than in the pantomime sparring arranged for the crowd's benefit in the early stages of the fixture – but the red rose medics were confident he would play a part against the All Blacks. That confidence was misplaced.

While the Harlequins forward was flying back to Heathrow on the first available flight – further checks on his hand yesterday showed little in the way of improvement – the acting team manager and head coach, Rob Andrew, was weighing up his options ahead of this weekend's opening contest at Eden Park. He has plenty of cover: two Wasps players, James Haskell and Joe Worsley, have experience of the No 8 role, as does Luke Narraway of Gloucester, who performed there during this year's Six Nations Championship. As a consequence, Andrew decided against summoning a replacement from the second-string Saxons squad which is currently playing Churchill Cup rugby in Canada.

He has a problem, though. Haskell has played his international rugby on the blind-side flank while Worsley is no longer a member of the Wasps starting XV. Narraway, meanwhile, found himself displaced by the Welsh Test player Gareth Delve for his club's big games at the end of the club campaign. Easter may not be everyone's cup of tea – indeed, even he struggled to command a place in the Quins back row last season, thanks to the brilliant form of the newcomer Tom Guest – but he knows what it is to perform on the biggest stage, having started all the World Cup games that mattered in France last autumn.

Happily, the news on Olly Barkley was more positive. The Gloucester-bound midfielder missed England's early training runs because of bruising to the right thigh, but he played a full part in yesterday's preparatory business at the Takapuna club and is expected to be fit for selection. Barkley is one of the form players in England, and his presence at either outside-half or inside centre will be vital, even if he fills one of those positions off the bench at Eden Park.

Meanwhile, the All Blacks have given up on John Afoa, the Auckland tight-head prop who picked up a knee injury during the hard-won victory over Ireland in Wellington on Saturday. Afoa has been diagnosed as suffering from damaged medial ligaments and will be incapacitated for a month.

Graham Henry, the New Zealand head coach, hopes to be in a position to consider his most experienced front-row player, the Canterbury prop Greg Somerville, for this weekend's game. Somerville, who made his Test debut eight years ago and has 57 caps to his name, has been struggling for fitness, but signalled at the weekend that he was ready for a another tour of duty at the sharp end of the set piece. Even so, Henry took the precaution of calling up another Canterbury prop, the uncapped Ben Franks, as cover.

The All Blacks are not particularly blessed with heavy scrummagers at present, with Tony Woodcock on the casualty list and Carl Hayman busily earning his Premiership fortune with Newcastle, so England would very much like to see Franks on the field on Saturday. New Zealand may have dominated the scrums against Ireland, but the red rose pairing of Andrew Sheridan and Matt Stevens are a very different kettle of fish to the Munster pairing of Marcus Horan and John Hayes.

News
newsAnother week, another dress controversy on the internet
Life and Style
Scientist have developed a test which predicts whether you'll live for another ten years
health
Life and Style
Marie had fake ID, in the name of Johanna Koch, after she evaded capture by the Nazis in wartime Berlin
historyOne woman's secret life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
News
news... and what your reaction to the creatures above says about you
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn