England's summer tour of New Zealand had been confirmed months before Stuart Lancaster was appointed as the England head coach in 2012.
But if this three-match test series, and the mid-week game against the Crusaders had been scheduled to begin a week later, Lancaster would be relishing the opportunity to pitch his promising young side against the awesome might of the All Blacks.
With the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England, just 14 months away, New Zealand seemed like the perfect destination for Lancaster's men. Despite all their talent and exuberance, the current crop of England players lack a trait that is invaluable in a world cup campaign, experience.
Going toe to toe with the world champions in their own back yard will leave this raw England team batter, beaten and enlightened.
But England are being forced to travel light. With the Premiership final due to take place five days after England fly to New Zealand, all of the players competing in the the Premiership season finale will be ruled out of the tour opener.
As Lancaster told the Mirror: “I’ve had to do a couple of permutations for the first Test because we have to see who’s in the top four, then who’s at Twickenham for the final. We’ll probably take 26/27 guys in the first batch, then pick up another 10/12 after the finals.”
After May 17, when both semi finals have been decided, Lancaster will have to add the finalists to the already lengthy list of notable absentees. Tom Youngs has understandably taken time away from the game to care for his wife. Rob Webber, Alex Corbisiero, Christian Wade, Jack Nowell and Billy Twelvetrees are all unavailable due to injury.
England have not won a Test in New Zealand since Martin Johnson's men edged past the All Blacks in 2003 and even at full strength, the current squad would do extremely well to avoid a three-nil white wash.
On the back of a 14-match unbeaten season, New Zealand's confidence is high and their class undeniable. They also have a reputation for ruthlessly thrashing any touring team that under perform, as the 2005 Lions, Ireland and most recently France will testify.
But while England appear short of players and experience, they will fly to the other end of earth, free from the pressure of expectation. Lancaster will be more concerned with performances and the players' resolve, than the results, and if the All Blacks fail to crush England's confidence, they will only decimate any English naivety.
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