England's prospects of departing New Zealand with a precious All Blacks scalp have dwindled after Geoff Parling was ruled out of the climax to the series with a hamstring injury.
Hailed earlier this week by head coach Stuart Lancaster as England's "outstanding forward" of the tour, Parling's absence from Saturday's Waikato Stadium showdown is a savage blow.
Joe Launchbury will resume his successful RBS 6 Nations second-row partnership with Courtney Lawes by taking Parling's place in the starting XV with Dave Attwood promoted to the bench.
"Geoff's been in great form and has led from the front very well as far as the forward pack is concerned," assistant coach Andy Farrell said.
"He was struggling at the beginning of the week and did everything he possibly could to get right, but he isn't right to play at Test match intensity.
"It's a big loss for us but we have good cover in that position and a couple of hungry boys are waiting to do the job for us."
Parling damaged his hamstring during last weekend's 28-27 defeat in Dunedin, a result that placed the series beyond England's reach.
Apart from his workrate around the pitch, the 30-year-old has been the series' best line-out operator, enabling him to break up the Lawes-Launchbury pairing even when both locks were available for Saturday.
Worryingly for England, Launchbury looked tired in the first two Tests, but must summon the energy for one last assault to prevent the All Blacks from amassing a record-equalling 17th victory.
"Courtney has run the line-out for us before so it's nice to see him step back in, take the leading role and take responsibility again," Farrell said.
"Joe was gutted to not be starting the match. After the review, he knows the reasons why he was left out. He's licked his wounds a little bit and has a chance to start.
"I'm sure we'll get more out of him because of that initial disappointment. He's champing at the bit and raring to go."
Farrell gave short shrift to comments made by New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen that England face a dilemma over their tactics since discovering they are unable to match the All Blacks at a high-tempo game.
In response to last Saturday's 28-27 victory, Hansen said "They are in a bit of a quandary really because they took us on in Dunedin playing a game of real pace and worked out they couldn't."
A week earlier Hansen had complained that England had attempted to slow the game down at Eden Park.
"Well, we didn't try to slow the game down in the first Test and they thought that was our tactics then. Now they're saying we're trying to speed the game up and can't do that," Farrell said.
"The reality is that the game always takes its own path and we've got to be in control of what we do.
"We want to play quick at the right times, be composed at the right times and slow things down when needed to suit ourselves. We'll be ready for either way of playing."