England have been given a lift ahead of their second Test against South Africa Joe Launchbury with the news that Joe Launchbury has been declared fit.
Launchbury was ruled out of the series opener at Ellis Park with a calf injury sustained in training before Eddie Jones’ squad departed and faced a race against time to be ready for Saturday’s Bloemfontein showdown.
But on Wednesday morning the Wasps captain was able to train with the squad for the first time since arriving in South Africa – and he is set to be drafted straight into the starting line-up.
“Joe Launchbury trained today (Wednesday) and trained well. He’s done a great job with his rehabilitation and is available for selection,” forwards coach Steve Borthwick said.
Launchbury will partner Maro Itoje in the second row for the Free State Stadium showdown as England stage their attempt to take the series to a decider in Cape Town, having been defeated 42-39 in the first Test.
The Wasps captain’s physical presence was missed at Ellis Park and in his absence 20-year-old Nick Isiekwe deputised, only to be substituted three minutes before half-time.
“Having a player of Joe’s quality available is great. Even though he hasn’t been playing he’s been absolutely brilliant around the squad,” Borthwick said.
“He’s a big lock but is also very talented. You can see his ability to run in the loose but also his ability in the tight.
“He’s very good around the maul, both in attack and defence. He’s a very good scrummager.”
Borthwick, who also revealed that third choice loosehead prop Ellis Genge has undergone a scan on a thigh issue, insists England remain buoyant despite seeing the first Test slip from their grasp having established a 21-point lead.
“We’re clearly disappointed by the defeat but there’s also a positivity about certain aspects of the game, such as that first 20 minutes,” he said.
“It was also positive that we got ourselves back into the game and took it close in the end. We have great resolve and determination to get the result we want this weekend.”
Ireland will be looking to avenge their first Test defeat when they face the Wallabies for the second of their three match series on Saturday (14:00 UAE time).
Here, we take a look at five players who need to be named in Joe Schmidt’s starting XV to keep the series alive.
The best out-half in the Northern Hemisphere returns to the starting line-up after being named on the bench for the first Test against the Wallabies last week.
Joey Carbery may have produced a consistent display from 10, but the 32-year-old’s addition brings more to the table in terms of game management skills, kicking from hand and an ability to get the back-line moving at pace.
The Leinster man is a model of consistency any time he is in possession and his inclusion is critical to how Ireland perform in the 10-12 axis.
If Sexton does 100 things in a row, it seems to be with perfect execution. He has that ability to dance and always give the ball to someone in a better position, instead of taking it into contact.
Robbie Henshaw may be the influential figure in the Leinster midfield, but Ringrose is equally as effective with ball in hand and in defence.
The 24-year-old tends to play first receiver to Sexton, and provides a fresh cutting edge to Ireland’s attack. His slick feet also allows him to evade would-be tacklers and gain extra yardage in a bid to unlock the speed of Jacob Stockdale out wide.
Although Bundee Aki started the first Test and remains a solid option, Ringrose adds more x-factor and variety in attack, with his solid defensive reads key to preventing the Wallabies midfield from gaining any extra yardage.
The best tighthead in the world.
His huge physicality (6’1 and 126kg) is a menace to any opposition and – coupled with his workrate – he is an outstanding footballer with a phenomenal skill level.
The imposing 25-year-old may have the edge in the scrum, but he’ll need plenty of assistance from his pack to get the upper hand on a dominant Wallabies forward unit.
A rising star still waiting to sparkle.
The Leinster man wasn’t included in the matchday squad for the first Test due to injury, but looks likely to be named at 7 in Melbourne.
A high class operator at the breakdown, the Dublin man will need to cut down the impact of David Pocock and Michael Hooper – with the Aussie duo having a field day against the Irish last Saturday.
The 24-year-old is an instrumental presence for club and country with his strong offloading, solid carrying and smoking footwork all serious threats.
In defence, he can tackle effectively, win his own ball and show serious willingness in the tight areas.
With captain Rory Best ruled out of the series due to a hamstring injury, the experienced Leinster man will step in to provide the firepower in the front row.
Ulster’s Rob Herring threw well and was mobile around the park in Brisbane, but Schmidt may turn to Cronin in a bid to add some extra zip against a granite-like Wallabies defence.
Dynamic and abrasive with exceptional reading of the breakdown, the 32-year-old battering ram will be central to curtailing the Aussie’s influence up front.
With the reliable Cian Healy and Furlong alongside him in the scrum, the Men in Green have two titans capable of causing serious damage in and out of the set piece.
Jonny May has revealed that England have been soul-searching over the recurring indiscipline that has sent results into freefall.
South Africa won the opening instalment of their three-Test series in a 42-39 victory at Ellis Park that exposed all-too familiar flaws in the performance of Eddie Jones’ men that first surfaced during a troubled Six Nations.
A penalty count of 17 played into the Springboks’ hands and while error-prone work at the breakdown also led to their collapse, it is the attention of referees
that is contributing most to their five-match losing run.
May, the Leicester wing who scored a brilliant solo try in Johannesburg, has revealed that Monday’s team meeting was dominated by one subject – how to avoid being whistled out of contention.
“It’s the chaos theory – one small action can have a huge impact later on in the game,” May said.
“You might just think it’s a silly penalty but it can change the game, especially when you give away back-to-back penalties. That’s a killer.
“We have spoken about discipline before, it isn’t like it’s been brushed over. In the Six Nations it killed us. And it was as bad as ever at the weekend.
“Hopefully we have realised – we should have realised by now – the impact one penalty has on the momentum of a game, let along back-to-back penalties.
“It really does have a huge impact. It’s like the ‘butterfly effect’. You think ‘oh one little penalty here’…
“We looked back at the Ireland game in the Six Nations. Owen on a kick chase took Johnny Sexton out. Penalty. Boom, line-out penalty. Boom, high ball, try.
“One penalty can really get a team going. It’s such a frustrating one because we don’t want to be giving away penalties. We know better than that. But at the moment hands up, it’s on us, because it’s not good enough.
“We are guilty of the same things, it’s frustrating sitting here saying the same things again, but we didn’t adapt and learn quick enough on the pitch.”