Lancaster sees benefits of midweek game

PA Sport
Stuart Lancaster values tour matches as it allows him to look at players in his squad
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Stuart Lancaster values tour matches as it allows him to look at players in his squad

England head coach Stuart Lancaster believes his side's midweek outing against an unknown South African Southern Barbarians side provides the perfect opportunity to ignite their summer tour.

It has been suggested Wednesday's run-out in Kimberley, for which Lancaster has named a completely different XV, is an unnecessary distraction ahead of the second Test against South Africa in Johannesburg. Lancaster accepts there are drawbacks but feels such games, traditional on long tours, are still highly beneficial.

He said: "I think on balance we would have still preferred to have the midweek games, because it allows us to look at a wider group of players and coach them and work with them, on this particular type of tour."

He added: "I think it is something I would like to do in future tours. The challenge is to make sure we, as coaches, get the balance right and our attention is directed in the right place at the right time."

Lancaster has decisions to make for Saturday's second clash against the Springboks after full-back Mike Brown and centre Brad Barritt were both ruled out through injury.

There are numerous permutations of how the back line could be reshaped and observers will look for clues in how long certain players feature against the Southern Barbarians.

Ben Foden would seem most likely to move off the wing back to his preferred full-back position in the Test side but Alex Goode could stake his claim for the number 15 shirt with a good showing in Kimberley. Likewise, winger David Strettle, injured for the first Test, will hope to prove his fitness.

In terms of players not featuring, the decision not to include London Irish centre Jonathan Joseph, who won his first cap off the bench last Saturday, has particularly sparked speculation he could take Barritt's place.

Yet Lancaster has also spoken of the importance of versatility and has pointed out that Manu Tuilagi, as well potentially moving from outside centre to inside centre, could play on the wing next Saturday.

He said: "Manu predominantly played his age-grade rugby on the wing. So there is that but I am trying to find people to fit roles and I think 13 is still an area we need to look at."

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