'Who?' All Black struggles to name England players ahead of first Test

Brodie Retallick should know better after being part of the side demolished 38-21 at Twickenham in December 2012

auckland

England have been gifted a motivational team talk for Thursday's first Test against New Zealand after All Black Brodie Retallick was unable to name a member of Stuart Lancaster's squad.

Asked if he knew any of the tourists ahead of the series opener at Eden Park, Retallick responded "a couple". When pressed for a name, the second row said "Michael Lawes".

The All Black lock appeared to be referring to Courtney Lawes, who is en route to New Zealand having helped Northampton win the Premiership final last weekend and consequently is unavailable for the first Test.

England will find the gaffe particularly galling as Retallick was in the starting XV when the All Blacks were demolished 38-21 at Twickenham in December 2012, in their only defeat since winning the 2011 World Cup.

It confirms the long-held suspicion that there is little awareness of European rugby among the southern hemisphere giants.

Local bookmakers have installed New Zealand as overwhelming 1-16 favourites to prevail at Eden Park with England rated 8-1 underdogs.

While the host nation is confident they will be celebrating a 15th successive All Blacks victory on Saturday, their plans have suffered a blow after Kieran Read was ruled out of the game with concussion.

In a worrying development for the International Rugby Board Player of the Year, he reported a recurrence of the neurological symptoms that have troubled him for more than a month.

Read – viewed as Richie McCaw's successor as All Blacks captain – made his comeback for the Crusaders on Saturday only to wake up on Monday morning "not feeling the best", according to New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen.

England centre Billy Twelvetrees did not train on Tuesday and is set to miss the first Test (Getty) England centre Billy Twelvetrees did not train on Tuesday and is set to miss the first Test (Getty)
A doubt now hangs over whether the influential No 8 will play any part in the series, while prolific wing Julian Savea is also a doubt for the opener due to a knee problem. "We're not prepared to risk Kieran playing and that's our decision, not his, and we'll progress that day by day," Hansen said.

"Long term, I'm not too concerned but we're just not prepared risk him this week.

"He's frustrated, as you would be, but we're very lucky we've got capable people who can fill his place. Jerome Kaino and Victor Vito have been performing very well and Liam Messam is an incumbent. We've got some good people to step up."

England's own plans have been disrupted yet again with centre Billy Twelvetrees' inability to take part in the final training session before Lancaster names his team, almost certainly pointing to his exclusion for Thursday.

Meanwhile, Ireland flanker Stephen Ferris insists he is leaving rugby with no regrets after confirming his retirement following a long battle with an ankle injury.

The British and Irish Lion suffered ankle damage in action for Ulster against Edinburgh in November 2012 which sidelined him for 16 months. The 28-year-old fought back to make three Ulster appearances this term, but has since suffered a recurrence of the same issue.

"I have had a great career, met many wonderful people and I hang up the boots with no regrets," he said.

PA

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