England make two changes for Dunedin Test against New Zealand

Joe Marler returns at front row for England for Dunedin game against New Zealand
Joe Marler returns at front row for England for Dunedin game against New Zealand

England head coach Steve Borthwick has made two changes for the upcoming first Test against New Zealand to be played in Dunedin on Saturday.

Both changes for England come in the front row with Joe Marler returning at loosehead prop replacing Bevan Rodd while Will Stuart comes in at tighthead prop taking the place of Dan Cole.

The benched Cole will win his 114th cap to equal Jason Leonard as England's most-capped forward.

Harlequins’ Fin Baxter and Northampton’s Ollie Sleightholme are set to win their first caps when they come off the bench.

The duo are joined among the replacements by Alex Coles and Ben Spencer, with Rodd, the suspended Charlie Ewels, Harry Randall and Tom Roebuck all missing out on the matchday 23. 

After a strong showing in England's 52-17 win over Japan last month, Marcus Smith retains his place at No.10 as Borthwick's side continues to develop their attacking game.

"It doesn't get more challenging than playing New Zealand at home, but it's exactly where we want to be," said Borthwick.

"We want to find out more about ourselves and test ourselves against one of the best teams in the world.

"Test rugby is a game of fine margins, so our mindset is going to be very important on Saturday. We'll need to be mentally strong, play a tactically smart game, and maintain our discipline."

The last time England won a Test against the All Blacks in New Zealand was in 2003 when they sealed a 15-13 win in Wellington. Nevertheless, England have a better recent record against New Zealand having defeated them 19-7 in the 2019 Rugby World Cup semi-final followed by a 25-25 draw at Twickenham Stadium in 2022.