ENGLAND head coach Stuart Lancaster has hailed the impact of “error free” Joe Launchbury after handing the Wasps youngster a first Test start against South Africa tomorrow.
The 21-year-old lock replaces his club colleague Tom Palmer, who has a mild calf injury, having impressed off the bench against Fiji and Australia, in a side including six changes from last week’s 20-14 loss to the Wallabies.
“We’ve put him in pressure situations in training games and he’s virtually error free. He’s a big man with physical presence,” said Lancaster. “His impact in training has been very impressive for a young man. He’s virtually error free in his core skills.”
London Irish prop Alex Corbisiero and Gloucester No8 Ben Morgan are set to appear for the first time since the summer tour to South Africa, while Ben Youngs’s superior kicking game sees him get the nod at scrum-half instead of Danny Care, and will play alongside brother Tom in an England Test for the first time. Harlequins’ Mike Brown, usually a full-back, replaces Charlie Sharples on the left wing.
“Sometimes it’s about getting your best players on the field,” added Lancaster.
A further three changes on the bench see James Haskell, Mouritz Botha and Jonathan Joseph feature for the first time this autumn.
“We have picked a team that will give us the best chance of beating South Africa,” Lancaster said.
“There were some tight calls, which is what you want as a coach, but the players we have brought in to start have been training well, will bring a real motivation to make the most of their opportunity and will suit the challenge we face against a tough and physical South African team.”
The Springboks will field the same side that beat Scotland 21-10 at Murrayfield last Saturday.
NOT JUST A TEST MATCH
■ England are desperate to beat South Africa as they must achieve a top four world ranking to be seeded for the 2015 World Cup draw, made on 3 December. If not, they could meet New Zealand, the Springboks or Australia as early as the group stages of the tournament
■ England have plenty of ground to make up if they are to breach the top four. They are currently ranked fifth in the world with 81.96 ranking points, while France hold fourth place with 84.99. New Zealand are first with 92.91
■ Hard fixtures could be to England’s advantage, as more ranking points are awarded against top sides. England face South Africa (2nd) and New Zealand (1st) before the draw, meaning enough points on offer to catch France
■ France’s home fixture against Samoa on Saturday could be pivotal for England. A loss for France would significantly boost England’s chances of taking that all-important fourth spot
By Tom Shepherd