England vs All Blacks Auckland test: Alex Waller heads final battle survivors to join Red Rose squad

 

It has come too late for this weekend’s opening Test with New Zealand, the reigning world champions, at the impregnable Auckland fortress of Eden Park, but the England tour party is at least beginning to look like a proper red-rose squad. Stuart Lancaster, the head coach, added 16 players to his elite group yesterday after receiving a full medical bulletin on those involved in the profoundly debilitating Premiership final at Twickenham, and all will be available for the second meeting with the All Blacks in Dunedin on 14 June.

Fourteen of the late travellers are from Northampton and Saracens, the most eye-catching of whom is Alex Waller, the 24-year-old uncapped prop who scored the winning try for the East Midlanders in the closing seconds of club rugby’s showpiece event on Saturday. The loose-head specialist from Kettering replaces the injured Mako Vunipola, who is recovering from urgent surgery on a dislocated kneecap and is unlikely to return to meaningful action in time for the start of the new season in September.

Waller flew out with the scars of battle clearly evident on his beaten-up face: during the final, he needed treatment on a nasty eye injury before rejoining the fray in time to make the crucial contribution from the traditional front-row forward’s distance of a single centimetre. He is by no means certain to feature in any of the Tests – Joe Marler of Harlequins, Matt Mullan of Wasps and Nathan Catt of Bath are already contesting the loose-head position – but this is a precious opportunity to catch the eye of Lancaster and his fellow coaches before next year’s World Cup.

The two exceptions to the Northampton-Saracens cluster are Anthony Watson, the outside back from Bath, who was declared fit over the weekend, and Kyle Sinckler, the young tight-head prop from Harlequins. Sinckler is an intriguing prospect, full of bristling aggression. Lancaster craves more depth in the No 3 position – Dan Cole, the Lions Test forward from Leicester, and David Wilson of Bath are miles ahead of the competition in this area – and while the 21-year-old from Battersea is nothing more than a babe in arms by tight-head standards, he is clearly regarded as a player of significant potential.

Graham Rowntree, the England forwards coach, will spend as much time as anyone with Waller and Sinckler, both of whom have a strong chance of featuring in the midweek game with the Canterbury-based Crusaders in Christchurch on 17 June. As one of the few Englishmen who knows what it is to beat the All Blacks on their own soil – he was one of the forwards who famously survived a goal-line siege in Wellington in 2003 – the old Leicester hard-head says that this is the national team’s biggest challenge since the collapse of the Martin Johnson regime two and a half years ago.

“Our mindset in ’03 was to get after them,” Rowntree recalled on Monday. “We talk about giving the opposition the things they don’t want and that means bettering New Zealand when it comes to physicality. But it’s a tough place to come. They haven’t lost at Eden Park for 20 years and while records are there to be broken, you have to consider the caps they’ll have in their starting team. When you look at stats like that, you get worried.”

Northampton, basking in their title-winning glory, have rewarded the rugby director Jim Mallinder with a five-year contract extension. “Professional sport demands immediate results but there has to be a balance between focusing on the short term and building a sustainable club,” said Allan Robson, the Saints chief executive. “Jim has achieved this.”

BUY RUGBY WORLD CUP TICKETS

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power