Lancaster keeping fingers crossed over Vunipola’s fitness for tour

NERVOUS Mako Vunipola will discover today whether he can play any part in England’s three-Test New Zealand tour.

England's Danny Cipriani.
England's Danny Cipriani.

The Saracens prop, who has made such an impact in Stuart Lancaster’s squad, will this morning receive the results of a scan on his knee after picking up an injury in Saturday’s 23-6 Heineken Cup final defeat to Toulon. England coach Lancaster admitted Saracens believe fly-half Owen Farrell has more chance of making Saturday’s Aviva Premiership final than the loose-head, but it is hoped he will be fit to take on the All Blacks.

The ex-Leeds Carnegie chief has refused to rule Dylan Hartley out of the New Zealand tour, despite the Northampton hooker still fighting to beat shoulder problems in time for this weekend’s title-decider.

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Lancaster selected seven uncapped players in the initial squad that flies out today to take on New Zealand on June 7, with Worcester full-back Chris Pennell plus Kieran Brookes, the Newcastle Falcons prop who spent time on dual-registration with Doncaster Knights last year.

The others are three hookers – Luke Cowan-Dickie, Joe Gray and Dave Ward – plus lock Ed Slater and centre Henry Trinder.

However, there is still no place for Steffon Armitage, despite the Toulon No 8 yesterday being named European Player of the Year, and ever-present Six Nations winger Jack Nowell is also dropped. Danny Cipriani is back in an England squad for the first time since 2008, facing a straight fight with Freddie Burns to start at fly-half in the first Test, while, as expected, Yorkshiremen Danny Care and Rob Webber make the cut.

England’s Premiership finalists will miss the first Test, forcing Lancaster into selecting a two-tier squad.

He will wait until Monday to confirm which Saracens and Northampton stars will join the summer tour.

New Zealand tour 30-man initial squad, forwards: D Attwood (Bath), 
K Brookes (Newcastle Falcons), L Cowan-Dickie (Exeter), J Gray (Harlequins), J Haskell (Wasps), T Johnson (Exeter), M Kvesic (Gloucester), J Launchbury (Wasps), J Marler (Harlequins), M Mullan (Wasps), B Morgan (Gloucester), G Parling (Leicester), C Robshaw (Harlequins) E Slater (Leicester), D Ward (Harlequins), R Webber, D Wilson (both Bath), H Thomas (Sale). Backs: F Burns (Gloucester) M Brown, D Care (both Harlequins), D Cipriani (Sale), K Eastmond (Bath), J May (Gloucester), C Pennell (Worcester), H Trinder (Gloucester), M Tuilagi (Leicester), B Twelvetrees (Gloucester), M Yarde (London Irish), B Youngs (Leicester).

England squad v Barbarians, forwards: R Buchanan (Harlequins), 
N Catt (Bath), W Collier (Harlequins), D Ewers (Exeter), J Gaskell (Sale), J Gibson (Leicester), R Harrison (Sale), G Kitchener (Leicester), C Matthews (Harlequins), M Paterson (Sale), K Sinkler (Harlequins), T Taylor (Sale), L Wallace (Harlequins). Backs: E Daly (Wasps), O Devoto (Bath), S Hill (Exeter), J Joseph (Bath), R Miller (Sale), D Robson (Gloucester), S Rokoduguni (Bath), C Sharples (Gloucester), J Simpson (Wasps), H Slade (Exeter).