Chris Robshaw has been confirmed as England captain for the QBE autumn internationals against Fiji, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand.
But Robshaw will be leading a squad beset by injuries, with Dylan Hartley in danger of missing the entire series after damaging his knee playing for Northampton at the weekend. Hartley will definitely miss the opening game against Fiji on November 10, as will his Northampton team-mate Courtney Lawes while Jonathan Joseph remains a significant doubt.
Hartley has not officially been ruled out of the series but he faces an uphill battle to be available and back to Test-match pace by the time New Zealand arrive at Twickenham on December 1.
"Courtney Lawes has got an injury that will probably be one or two weeks and Dylan will be a couple of weeks after that," Lancaster said. "They won't be available for the Fiji game. They are reasonable injuries.
"Dylan could potentially be available towards the end of the series but a lot of things have to happen before then.
"We have got to get him some game-time for Northampton before we can pitch him into international rugby, particularly if you look at our last two games against South Africa and New Zealand."
Hartley's injury - added to those already suffered by Bath hooker Rob Webber and Harlequins' Joe Gray - leaves England choosing between the uncapped Tom Youngs and David Paice for the number two jersey.
Robshaw captained England to second place in the RBS 6 Nations championship and on the summer tour to South Africa, although he missed the drawn third Test with a broken hand. Lancaster described Robshaw's appointment as a "no-brainer", although it was only made official once the squad arrived in camp at St George's Park on Monday.
"It was important to wait until after last weekend's Aviva Premiership matches to check on everyone's form and fitness and not interrupt the players' preparations," Lancaster said. "I have had the chance now to have a one-to-one catch-up with each player and we are really please to announce Chris as captain.
"Chris has been outstanding on and off the field and we are delighted that he will captain the team for what will be an immense challenge in the QBE internationals."