England face second All Blacks Test selection headache
England's head coach Stuart Lancaster, pictured prior to the start of their rugby union match against the New Zealand All Blacks, at Eden Park in Auckland, on June 7, 2014 - by Michael Bradley
Lancaster said he was mulling whether to give his combative second-stringers another crack after they were eclipsed 20-15 in the first Test, or to unleash many of England's "quality players" who only arrived in New Zealand last week.
While Conrad Smith's try in the dying minutes gave the All Blacks victory in Auckland on Saturday, the match statistics were heavily tilted in England's favour.
Despite having at least 12 senior players unavailable, the tourists finished ahead in the territory and possession stakes as well as the number of line breaks and tackles broken. They also took the only clean lineout steal and only tighthead of the match.
But England were unable to score a try, with their points coming from five penalties. The All Blacks also kicked five before snatching victory with a last-gasp rush at the line.
"We were desperately disappointed having fought so hard to be in the game for so long," Lancaster said.
"But from our point of view I'm tremendously proud of the effort the players put in while some quality players sat in the stands."
He said the dilemma now was whether to build on the cohesion established in the first Test or face "the challenge of creating, if there are going to be changes, some cohesion in the new group of players."
"It's a massive game for us now," Lancaster said as he pondered his options ahead of the move to Dunedin for next weekend's second match in the three-Test series.
"We've always come into this series believing we can (win) but you've got to deliver, and the game next week is huge for us because we want a tight series. We want to go into a decider in Hamilton."
As he deliberated on the need to improve on England's dismal record of only two wins from 13 Tests in New Zealand, Lancaster also hinted that not all the late-arriving senior players will get a run as he eyes the long-term target of next year's World Cup.
"For me it's about the bigger picture. Building towards the World Cup in 2015 and making sure people get experience and opportunities out here."
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