Launchbury lifts England as Kiwis lose Cruden
It is not difficult to argue that England find it harder to function without their outstanding young second-row Joe Launchbury than New Zealand do without their inventive outside-half Aaron Cruden, so this year's World Cup hosts were clear winners over the reigning champions in yesterday's battle of the orthopaedic bulletins, which are now coming thick and fast with the global gathering just around the corner.
Launchbury expects to return from a six-month absence when Wasps play Leicester in the Premiership next month, while Cruden is likely to miss this autumn's tournament with a mangled knee ligament.
The All Blacks at least still have playmaking No 10s as exceptional as Dan Carter and Beauden Barrett available to them.
England have hardly been destitute in the engine-room department since 24-year-old lock Launchbury underwent surgery to address a worsening neck condition - Courtney Lawes, Geoff Parling, Dave Attwood and George Kruis all had their moments - but the forwards have struggled to reproduce the all-court dynamism that marked their Six Nations campaign last year, when Launchbury played the best rugby of his career.
Cruden's setback - he ruptured his left anterior cruciate ligament while on Super 15 duty for the Chiefs at the weekend - is just about as cruel as it gets.
Left out of the New Zealand squad at the 2011 World Cup on home soil, he was called in when Carter picked up an injury and started the final against France, only to have his big day cut short by a knee problem.
Cruden will undergo reconstructive surgery and is unlikely to regain fitness until mid-October. (© Independent News Service)