Six Nations: Snubbed Lion Joe Launchbury true star in England's win over Wales

Chris Bailey 11/02/2018
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • Mail
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • WhatsApp
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn

The effect of Eddie Jones’ pre-match mischief, Gareth Anscombe’s try-that-wasn’t and a stormy Warren Gatland dominated the airwaves on Saturday night but only one man dominated on the pitch.

Joe Launchbury was denied the chance to become a Lion in the summer by Gatland – who then felt the full force of his ability at Twickenham.

The Wasps lock is a softly spoken man – and certainly does not look the type to harbour grudges – but, just like a bull, ran down everything that wore red.

As has been pointed out elsewhere, there were five Lions locks in both England and Wales squads on Saturday: Maro Itoje, Courtney Lawes, George Kruis, Alun Wyn Jones and Cory Hill, one of the ‘Geography Six’. A strong group that certainly is but Launchbury has the measure of them all.

Of course, he didn’t go underappreciated for the entirety of the match as his outrageous offload while on the floor teed up Jonny May for his second.

However, for all the talk of  “do-it-all Itoje” and the rare physical specimen, such as Lawes, among England supporters, neither matched him when it came to the dirty work either.

In sodden conditions that demanded discipline in defence, Launchbury made an England-best 19 tackles – missing only one – without conceding a penalty, and got through 13 carries before being removed from the theatre of conflict with 12 minutes to go.

It took even Jones a while to fully understand what he had in a weapon that was beginning to gather dust. Of the first seven games he was fit under Jones’ regime, Launchbury was named among the replacements in five of them.

Saracens man Kruis curried favour as a master lineout operator – but could he match Launchbury for physicality, work-rate, and explosion? Not a bit of it.

The fear remains that, with Lawes being trialled as a No6 and England at times struggling to stop quick ball at the breakdown, Launchbury could be the fall guy.

Remove reputation – as well as Launchbury’s baby face from the equation – and he’s the one man who deserves to be left alone. This is no average Joe.

Most popular

Related Sections

Six Nations: Best of the Day

Alex Broun 11/02/2018
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • Mail
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • WhatsApp
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn

Controversy of the day: Wales’ disallowed try

Wales coach Warren Gatland didn’t mince his words when he spoke after the match about the crucial moment in the first half when Gareth Anscombe was disallowed what looked like a legitimate try.

The Welsh full back seemed to ground the ball a milli-second before Anthony Watson, but after numerous replays the TMO Glenn Newman ruled no try.

As Gatland said after the match if the try had been awarded it could have changed the whole momentum of the match.

Gatland also rightfully pointed out that Mike Brown could have received a yellow card for a professional foul late in the match when Wales were on the attack – but both decisions went against the visitors.

In a game as tight and close as this crucial decisions like this went in the favour of England – and if they had gone the other way the result may have been different.

After the match England coach Eddie Jones grew increasingly indignant about opinions that Wales were denied a fair try.

“The TMO is there for a reason,” barked Jones. “He has all the time in the world to make his decision and he said no try.”

Of course if the decision went the other way you can be sure Jones would not have kept quiet.

DUBLIN, IRELAND - FEBRUARY 10: Jacob Stockdale of Ireland is tackled by Marcello Violi of Italy during the NatWest Six Nations match between Ireland and Italy at Aviva Stadium on February 10, 2018 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

Jacob Stockdale on the way to the tryline.

Try of the Day : Stockdale’s second vs Italy

Jacob Stockdale’s second try for Ireland against Italy was as thrilling as it was telling.

The 21-year-old Ulster winger intercepted a loose Italian pass, of which there were many on the day, and pinned his ears back on a sixty-metre run to the line. Stockdale had one man to beat and a man looming up in support on the inside but Stockdale never had any doubts.

He executed a perfect in and away on Jayden Hayward then beat the Italian replacement for pace to touch down in the left corner.

Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton may be pulling the strings in the Ireland attack but they desperately need the power and pace of Stockdale out wide if they are to capitalize on the chance that may come their way as the tournament gets to the pointy end.

Right winger Keith Earls and full back Rob Kearney are quality finishers but they can’t bust the game open like Stockdale.

In the end this Six Nations may come down to the final five minutes of England and Ireland at Twickenham and Stockdale given the ball ten metres out with two men to beat.

With his natural ability and growing confidence, chances are Stockdale will get over the line and win it for Ireland.

Wales' Gareth Anscombe (L) is tackled during the Six Nations international rugby union match between England and Wales at the Twickenham, west London, on February 10, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Glyn KIRK (Photo credit should read GLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images)

Gareth Anscombe proved a real handful for the England defence.

Player of the Day : Gareth Anscombe (Wales)

With Dan Biggar and Rhys Priestland out injured, Wales were forced to call on their third choice fly-half, the Scarlets Rhys Patchell. Much of the talk before the match from the England side was that Patchell was not up to it and would “bottle” it when the heat really came on.

The 24-year-old was at fault for England’s first try when he failed to gather Danny Care’s high kick and he was swamped at times with ball in hand by a fast moving England back row, But he recovered well to put in the delicate cross-field kick that almost led to Gareth Anscombe’s try.

Patchell’s game lasted 55-minutes and it was when he was withdrawn that Wales looked at their most dangerous.

George North came on to the wing which saw Anscombe move in to the No10 role and the Cardiff Blues playmaker was electric.

Anscombe made a couple of long breaks that were very unlucky not to result in tries and his distribution and kicking out of hand were also dangerous.

This display, like Aaron Shingler, showed that a place must be found for Anscombe in the starting line up.

With Halfpenny back Gatland could do worse than to start the 26-year-old at No10 in Dublin against Ireland.

Most popular

Related Sections

Six Nations: Schmidt refuses to rule out Henshaw

Nick Purewal 11/02/2018
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • Mail
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • WhatsApp
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn

Joe Schmidt has refused to rule out Robbie Henshaw even from Ireland’s Six Nations clash with Wales, despite the centre suffering a suspected dislocated shoulder against Italy.

Ireland boss Schmidt remains hopeful that Henshaw could yet shake off his injury, though the British and Irish Lions star’s tournament could well be over.

Henshaw ran in two of Ireland’s eight tries in Saturday’s 56-19 win over Italy in Dublin, but required oxygen and left the field in a sling after being injured in the act of crossing for his second score.

Tadhg Furlong suffered a hamstring injury after just three minutes of Ireland’s comfortable win, but Schmidt hopes the Leinster prop could also be ready to face Wales in Dublin on February 24.

“We’ll know more after Robbie’s scan tomorrow, he looked in a fair bit of discomfort when he came off but what’s promising is the fact that he was more comfortable later on,” said Schmidt.

“What’s not promising was the degree of discomfort he was in at the time.

“We’ll have an update hopefully later once he’s had that scan.

“Robbie is superb defensively, and on the attack as well. I think Robbie is a class player.

“Tadhg Furlong just felt a tightening on deceleration. We’d be hopeful he would still be okay in two weeks’ time.”

FUKUROI, JAPAN - JUNE 17: Garry Ringrose of Ireland runs with the ball during the international rugby friendly match between Japan and Ireland at Shizuoka Stadium on June 17, 2017 in Fukuroi, Japan. (Photo by Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images)

Garry Ringrose may be fit to face Wales.

Garry Ringrose retains a slim chance of recovering from ankle trouble in time to face Wales, with Schmidt hopeful the Leinster centre could return to offset Henshaw’s possible absence.

“Garry’s making really good progress, next weekend might be just one weekend too soon, but he’s not far away,” said Schmidt.

“But again it might be the weekend after, and for him to come back straight off an injury lay-off to play against Wales, that would be a tough call, but it’s a call we’d be happy to make based on Garry’s previous contributions.

“He’s such an intelligent player. He does add value when he comes into the side.

“He could be another option if Robbie Henshaw is unavailable, as we suspect he potentially will be.”

Asked to assess Ireland’s tile chances, Schmidt replied: “You do feel that you’ve a chance when you can get those first two wins, especially with an away win first up.

“We haven’t lost a Six Nations game at home in the five years I’ve been involved.

“There’s a real benchmark there that we can hopefully defend.

“We probably had a couple of knock-backs injury-wise today. So it’s a bit of a wait and see, really.

“But if you’d said to me two weeks ago you’d have nine points and a 39-point differential, I’d have bitten your hand off.

“We do feel that we’ve gained a bit of confidence that we’re heading in the right direction.

“Wales will be a whole different scenario. They are very attacking as a defensive side and they squeeze you and force errors.”

Italy's coach Conor O'Shea (R) leads the warm-up before the International Six Nations rugby union match Italy vs France on March 11, 2017 at the Olympic Stadium in Rome. / AFP PHOTO / Alberto PIZZOLI (Photo credit should read ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/Getty Images)

Italy’s coach Conor O’Shea believes Ireland will pip England for the Six Nations title this year.

Italy boss Conor O’Shea admitted his Azzurri squad need to boost their fitness to challenge the world’s top sides.

“We knew they were going to hold the ball, because they don’t think we’re fit enough – and they’re right,” said O’Shea.

“We are much fitter than we were; much, much better than we were, but we’re not at the level that we need.

“There’s a reason we’re not number two or three in the world. And that’s the reason.

“When we held the ball, we looked good. We’ll just keep moving forward, forward, forward.”

Most popular

Related Sections