1:29pm Wednesday 4th June 2014
ENGLAND look set to name Bath's Kyle Eastmond at inside centre for Saturday's opening Test against New Zealand after Billy Twelvetrees lost his race to be fit for the series opener at Eden Park.
Twelvetrees' ankle injury prevented him from training on Tuesday in the final practice session before head coach Stuart Lancaster names his team tonight.
The Gloucester back has been out since May 3 and his ongoing absence offers Eastmond the chance to win a third cap.
Eastmond, a rugby league convert, impressed during last summer's tour to Argentina but recently fell out of favour at Bath and has not played since April 27.
Operating inside the 24-year is expected to be another player who is fourth choice in his position in Freddie Burns.
Leicester-bound Burns has been desperately short of form when picked by Gloucester, but he appears to have edged out Danny Cipriani in the absence of preferred fly-halves Owen Farrell, Stephen Myler and George Ford.
England will otherwise select a familiar backline with Danny Care at scrum-half, Manu Tuilagi outside Eastmond at 13, Marland Yarde and Jonny May on the wings and Mike Brown at full-back.
The key talking point in the forwards concerns who will partner Joe Launchbury in the second row, with Geoff Parling's line-out expertise likely to see him chosen ahead of the more abrasive Dave Attwood, of Bath.
The front row picks itself with Bath's Rob Webber, who has overcome a knee problem, packing down alongside Joe Marler and David Wilson.
The back row that finished the RBS 6 Nations will almost survive intact with the physicality of James Haskell likely to see him fill the shoes of Tom Wood, with Chris Robshaw at openside and Ben Morgan at number eight.
New Zealand also name their 23 on Wednesday, with Jerome Kaino in pole position to replace number eight Kieran Read, who has been ruled out with concussion.
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