Danny Care, the Harlequins scrum-half who delivered some of the best performances of his career during the Six Nations and is now England's undisputed number one No 9, has until Friday's final training session to prove his fitness ahead of the meeting with New Zealand. The Yorkshireman fell awkwardly on his shoulder during a team run at the start of the week and is at some risk of missing the contest.
As a consequence, the head coach Stuart Lancaster has been forced to go against his instincts by placing one of his jet-lagged late arrivals, Lee Dickson of Northampton, on stand-by. Dickson, who played 50 minutes of hard rugby in last weekend's Premiership final victory over Saracens at Twickenham, will understudy Ben Youngs of Leicester if Care withdraws from the starting line-up.
Whatever happens in the half-back department, England will go into this most demanding of games with a reshaped bench. Two uncapped players – the Harlequins hooker Joe Gray and the Worcester full-back Chris Pennell – are among the replacements, as is the inexperienced prop Henry Thomas, who has just moved to Bath from Sale.
Exiles bounce back to ruin Memorial send-off
London Welsh booked a quickfire return to the Premiership after condemning big-spending Bristol to another season in English rugby's second tier.
The Exiles took a 19-point advantage with them into the Championship final second leg and Bristol – despite being roared on by an 11,000 crowd for their last game at the Memorial Stadium – never seriously threatened to wipe out that deficit as Welsh prevailed 21-20.
Bristol were not helped by fly-half Nicky Robinson missing three penalties and two conversions, with tries by Andy Short, Mitch Eadie and Adam Hughes – plus a Robinson penalty and Adrian Jarvis conversion – proving insufficient.
The Exiles flanker Carl Kirwan and wing Seb Stegmann scored late tries and fly-half Gordon Ross slotted 11 points through a drop goal, two penalties and a conversion.