'Unacceptable' fixture clashes must end now, says Stuart Lancaster

England coach tells 'The Independent' that New Zealand tour without key players is his toughest task so far

rugby union correspondent

Stuart Lancaster, the England head coach, will make strong representations to the Rugby Football Union following next month's tour of New Zealand in an effort to ensure that future trips to the southern hemisphere are not undermined by catastrophic fixture scheduling.

Lancaster described the current situation as "unacceptable", revealing that he had raised the issue personally with leading figures in the All Black management but had not succeeded in securing an agreement that would enable him to pick his strongest side for the opening Test in Auckland.

"I absolutely intend to do my best to make sure this doesn't happen again," he said in a wide-ranging interview with The Independent. "As much as I've tried to influence matters for this summer's tour, the obstacles were too great. Because of the scheduling, this is without doubt the most difficult situation I've faced since taking on the England job. I believe it's in everyone's interests that teams are given the best chance of competing effectively in these high-profile games. To have Test nations touring without their best players… it's unacceptable, really."

Read more: Stuart Lancaster: 'I've made mistakes but we have momentum'

By fixing the Eden Park Test for 7 June, just a week after the Premiership final in England, the International Rugby Board's schedulers guaranteed that England would be forced to field an under-strength team in that match. Lancaster spoke to senior officials in the New Zealand union, including the chief executive Steve Tew, when he visited the country last August, but was told there was no solution.

"It's a problem I've in-herited," Lancaster said. "When I was appointed head coach on an interim basis, I was too busy dealing with the here and now and stabilising the ship to look too far ahead. When I was given the job on a permanent basis in 2012 and I started looking at the extended programme and mapping out the key dates, I realised immediately that the fixture list for this tour wasn't going to work for us. It's far from ideal, but it's above a coach's head. These things are decided years in advance and television schedules are built around the agreed dates."

England will not tour south of the Equator next summer because of the World Cup later in the year, but they are due to visit Australia for a full Test series in June 2016. As the domestic club season is unlikely to be shortened in the foreseeable future, there is every likelihood that the Premiership final at Twickenham will again be played on the last Saturday in May. Any move by the Wallabies to play England the following weekend will be fiercely resisted by the RFU, if Lancaster has his way.

On Thursday, the head coach will name a relatively small advance group of players for England's summer programme, which begins with a game against the Barbarians at Twickenham on 1 June. Danny Cipriani, the Sale outside-half whose representative career went into free fall following a difficult autumn series in 2008, is likely to be called up, as are the Worcester full-back Chris Pennell, outstanding in adversity this season, and two Exeter youngsters, the midfielder Henry Slade and the brilliant front-row prospect Luke Cowan-Dickie. Some of those in this initial squad, drawn from clubs whose 2013-14 business is at an end, may make it onto the flight to New Zealand.

The main body of the tour party will be named in batches over the next 10 days or so. "I won't know what cards I've been dealt for the Auckland Test until we find out which clubs are involved in the Premiership final," Lancaster said. "Things will be clearer after this weekend's semi-finals.

"For all the problems we're facing, there's some positive news. The chance to discover more about a new group of players is definitely an upside: we want to work with youngsters like Henry Slade and Luke Cowan-Dickie, and they've shown through their performances at club level that they deserve to work with us. Also, there has been no suggestion of burn-out or fatigue amongst those already in the senior England squad. They've been well looked after at their clubs, they all want to tour and they're peaking for the big matches ahead."

Tough calls: Lancaster's three areas of concern

Inside centre

With the Gloucester midfielder Billy Twelvetrees on the injury list and one of Manu Tuilagi and Luther Burrell missing the first Test because of the Premiership final, there is an obvious problem – one that will be exacerbated if Saracens get to Twickenham, because that would also remove Brad Barritt from the equation.

Loose-head prop

Lancaster has already decided not to take Northampton's Alex Corbisiero, injured for most of the season. If Mako Vunipola of Saracens is not involved in the Premiership final, Joe Marler of Harlequins will be.


Tom Youngs is staying home on compassionate grounds while Rob Webber and David Paice are injured. Much depends on Northampton's Dylan Hartley shaking off a shoulder problem in time.

Life and Style
A teenager boy wakes up.
Arts and Entertainment
Critics say Kipling showed loathing for India's primitive villagers in The Jungle Book
filmChristopher Walken, Bill Murray, Scarlett Johanssen Idris Elba, Andy Serkis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Cate Blanchett and Christian Bale
Life and Style
food + drink
Life and Style
Playing to win: for Tanith Carey, pictured with Lily, right, and Clio, even simple games had to have an educational purpose
lifeTanith Carey explains what made her take her foot off the gas
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
A still from Duncan Campbell's hour-long film 'It for Others'
Turner Prize 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hadley in a scene from ‘Soul Boys Of The Western World’
musicSpandau Ballet are back together - on stage and screen
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Ed Stoppard as Brian Epstein, Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Elliott Cowan as George Martin in 'Cilla'
tvCilla review: A poignant ending to mini-series
Life and Style
Bearing up: Sebastian Flyte with his teddy Aloysius in Brideshead Revisited
lifePhilippa Perry explains why a third of students take a bear to uni
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Alan Sugar appearing in a shot from Apprentice which was used in a Cassette Boy mashup
artsA judge will rule if pieces are funny enough to be classed as parodies
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style