Wednesday 23 January 2019

Launchbury in doubt for first Boks Test

England's Joe Launchbury. Photo: Reuters
England's Joe Launchbury. Photo: Reuters

Joe Launchbury continues to be a major doubt for Saturday's first Test against South Africa but England will give him every chance to prove his fitness.

The in-form Wasps captain was once again unable to train with Eddie Jones' squad at Kings Park yesterday due to the calf injury sustained in practice last week.

Launchbury is set to form a second-row partnership alongside Maro Itoje if fit, with Nick Isiekwe and Jonny Hill the alternatives if he fails to recover.

England name their team for the series opener against the Springboks at Ellis Park today and are hopeful that their veteran lock will be involved.

"We're giving Joe the best possible chance to play this weekend," defence coach Paul Gustard said. "He's on a modified programme. We'll have to assess how he came though today. We'll assess it later on when we have our selection meeting."

The uncertainty over Launchbury is the only injury concern as selection is finalised for England's attempt at halting their four-match losing run, but there are two positions up for grabs. Tighthead prop sees Kyle Sinckler and Harry Williams battling it out for the starting jersey in the absence of Dan Cole, who has been rested for the tour.

Sinckler is the incumbent having played the role against Ireland in the Six Nations, while Williams has not started for his club Exeter since January due to a neck injury.

Behind the scrum, Alex Lozowski and Henry Slade duel for selection at outside centre with the former's familiarity with Saracens colleague Owen Farrell possibly winning him the nod.

Elsewhere, Cory Hill will captain Wales in the first Test against Argentina in San Juan on Saturday, with head coach Warren Gatland having made eight changes.

George North will be back starting on the wing after playing at centre in the victory over South Africa in Washington, before switching to his usual wide role after a knee injury to Steff Evans.

Irish Independent

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