England in New Zealand 2014
Fixture congestion means weakened England side
ESPN Staff
November 13, 2013
Stuart Lancaster is believed to be frustrated by the situation © Getty Images

England are likely to have to field a below-strength side for the first of the summer's three Tests in New Zealand after the IRB ruled the series could not be delayed by a week.

England play three matches against the All Blacks - on June 7, 14 and 21 - but with the Premiership final scheduled for May 31, all those involved will have to wait until the next day to fly out which means they will arrive in New Zealand too late for the opening game.

The series dates were decided three years ago and representations to the New Zealand board and the IRB were both fruitless.

Stuart Lancaster is reported to be deeply frustrated by the situation and it was briefly rumoured that there was a possibility caps would not be awarded for the first Test, but that seems a highly unlikely scenario.

An England spokesman was quoted in the Times as saying: "Because of the Premiership final, England will, due to restricted training time and jet lag recovery protocol, be without certain players for the first match. While this situation is not perfect, it is an opportunity for a wider group of England players to put a marker down."

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