sport

Lions duo to stay at home

British Lions Alex Corbisiero and Tom Croft will not tour New Zealand with England this summer despite recovering from long-term injuries.

England's coaching staff will not risk the fit-again duo for the three-Test All Blacks challenge next month, it is understood.

Wings Christian Wade and Jack Nowell will also definitely miss the New Zealand tour through injury, while doubts remain over the fitness of Gloucester centre Billy Twelvetrees and Bath hooker Rob Webber.

Twelvetrees suffered ankle trouble in Gloucester's 38-30 Aviva Premiership victory over London Irish on Saturday, and should learn the severity of his injury after scans on Thursday.

Webber suffered a knee injury in Bath's 19-19 draw with Northampton on Friday night and is now fighting to recover in time for England's summer tour.

Northampton prop Corbisiero is ready for club action after seven months on the sidelines with persistent knee problems, while Leicester flanker Croft is back after tearing knee ligaments on the season's opening day.

The experienced pairing will hand their East Midlands clubs big Aviva Premiership play-off boosts, but will not be considered ready for Test rugby this summer.

England head coach Stuart Lancaster will view both the Lions series winners in Australia last summer as central to his Rugby World Cup 2015 plans.

Corbisiero has long since battled chronic knee issues, while Croft's knee ligament trouble came just one season after career-threatening neck trauma.

The England management will not take any chances with either player's long-term involvement, and feel next month's New Zealand tour falls while they are still finding their feet in recovery.

Both Corbisiero and Croft are expected to feature for the first time since their injuries in Saturday's final round of regular-season Premiership action.

Lancaster will delay finalising his New Zealand tour party as long as possible to combat club and country fixture congestion.

The England boss will wait on the outcome of a host of club play-offs and finals before completing the 40-plus squad required for the All Blacks challenge.

None of the Premiership finalists can take part in the first Test in Auckland on June 7, that falls just seven days after the English club showpiece.

So Lancaster will adjust his squad depending on which teams reach the May 31 Twickenham contest.

England's head coach is also likely to take 12 specialist front-rowers and four scrum-halves to solve a selection jigsaw thrown up by the hectic business end to the season for Premiership clubs.

England entertain the Barbarians at Twickenham on Sunday, June 1, with a squad expected to resemble the second-string Saxons group that took on Ireland Wolfhounds and Scotland A in January.

Saracens have already topped the Premiership's regular standings, with Northampton and Leicester also into the annual final-four battle.

Harlequins and Bath face a straight shoot-out for the final play-off slot when they square up at The Stoop on Saturday.

Even if Quins progress into the May 17 and 18 Premiership semi-finals though, that will not free up any of Bath's England contingent for Lancaster.

The Recreation Ground men still take on Northampton in the Amlin Challenge cup final on Friday, May 23, so will remain on club duty whatever happens in west London this weekend.

Saracens will take on Toulon in the Heineken Cup final on May 24, and now Wasps face Stade Francais in the seventh-place play-off for European Champions Cup qualification.

The second leg of Wasps' European battle will take place in Paris on May 24, leaving Lancaster's resources further stretched past the end of the regular club campaign.