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England delays naming tour team

Friday, May 09, 2014

LONDON - Stuart Lancaster will delay finalising England's touring party for June's three-Test rugby series in New Zealand as long as possible to combat club and country fixture congestion.

The England boss will wait for the outcome of a host of club playoffs and finals before completing the squad lists for the New Zealand challenge, Press Association Sport understands.

Lancaster is expected to need at least 40 players, owing to the seven-day gap between the Aviva Premiership final and England's first Test in Auckland on June 7.

None of the Premiership finalists will take part in that Auckland Test, leaving Lancaster waiting to adjust his squad depending on who reaches the English league showdown.

Form Premiership stars such as Sale's Danny Cipriani have been touted for England calls, given the restrictions surrounding Lancaster's first Test selection.

England's head coach is likely to take 12 specialist front-rowers and four scrum-halves to solve a selection jigsaw thrown up by the hectic business end to the season for Premiership clubs.

Lancaster will name a potentially 15-strong training group next week, after the final round of the regular Premiership season finalises the tournament's semi-finals.

England entertain the Barbarians at Twickenham on June 1, and the squad is expected to resemble the second-string Saxons group that took on Ireland Wolfhounds and Scotland A in January.

Saracens have already topped the Premiership's regular standings. Northampton and Leicester are also into the annual final-four battle.

Harlequins and Bath face a straight shootout for the final playoff slot when they square up at The Stoop on Saturday.

Even if the Quins progress into the May 17 and 18 Premiership semi-finals, though, that will not free up any of Bath's England contingent for Lancaster.

The Recreation Ground men still take on Northampton in the Amlin Challenge cup final on May 23, so will remain on club duty whatever happens in west London this weekend.

Saracens will take on Toulon in the Heineken Cup final on May 24, and now Wasps face Stade Francais in the seventh-place playoff for European Champions Cup qualification.

The second leg of Wasps' European battle will take place in Paris.

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