England lock Joe Launchbury losing fitness battle to feature in second Test v South Africa

Duncan Bech 17:24 12/06/2018
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Joe Launchbury is losing his battle to play in England’s second Test against South Africa after missing training once again on Tuesday.

The Wasps captain has been unable to practise with the squad since suffering a calf problem 11 days ago, an injury that prevented him from participating in last Saturday’s 42-39 defeat at Ellis Park.

And the outlook on his involvement in the second instalment of the series in Bloemfontein is looking increasingly bleak ahead of Thursday’s team announcement.

“Joe was at training this morning (Tuesday) but was training on his own. He was movingly reasonably well so we’ll see where he is later in the week,” scrum coach Neal Hatley said.

“We’ll see if he’s able to train tomorrow. We need to see how he feels after seeing the physios.”

If Launchbury is ruled out, England will be forced into a dramatic back five reshuffle in light of Nick Isiekwe’s tactical substitution shortly before half-time in Johannesburg.

Having been pulled early in the first Test, Isiekwe is unlikely to play again in this series leaving Maro Itoje and Jonny Hill as the only recognised second rows in the squad, with Brad Shields also an option in the position.

There is better news over hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie, who has been cleared to play after picking up a hamstring niggle as a second-half replacement at Ellis Park.

“Luke was able to train. We did some live scrums and Luke took part in those. He’s good,” Hatley said.

England must topple the Springboks at Free State Stadium if they are to avoid a fifth-successive Test defeat and rescue the series after falling short in a pulsating opener.

“We’ve had a good look at the first Test and have identified the areas that we need to address and the areas which we thought we did well in,” Hatley said.

“First and foremost we want a win. We scored close to 40 points at Ellis Park so we’re pleased with a lot of the things we did in attacking including five tries. It’s just other areas that we need to tighten up on.”

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