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'A lot is said about England not wanting to attack but that has never been a message pushed on us as players'

By Liam Heagney

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Missing England second row Joe Launchbury has admitted he has been pleased with how Eddie Jones’ team have nurtured their attack during his absence for the 2021 Guinness Six Nations. The soon-to-be 30-year-old lock started all four of England’s matches during their Autumn Nations Cup success, a triumph where the consensus was that it was built on the strength of their defence more than anything else.

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Launchbury was set to be involved for the Six Nations but he dropped out in January a few days after the original 28-man squad was announced by Jones due to a leg fracture that he is set to return from this Friday when Wasps travel to Newcastle in the Gallagher Premiership.

The stress fracture to his fibula left the lock watching on as Jonny Hill and Charlie Ewels have partnered Maro Itoje in the Test XV and while England generally struggled on the front foot in February, they hit back with an admirable win last Saturday over France.

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Owen Farrell speaks in the wake of England’s round four Six Nations win over France
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Owen Farrell speaks in the wake of England’s round four Six Nations win over France

How England attacked in that round four match, added to some of their play in the round three loss to Wales, has been pleasing and Launchbury was left impressed despite his own frustrations at not being able to play.

“The challenge has been slightly different,” he said when asked what he has seen differently about England in spring compared to last autumn. “The autumn was kind of a unique series. Wales were trying to change the way they were playing, trying to change their personnel, and we felt we adapted to that (Autumn Nations) tournament the best out of those teams and came away with winning the tournament which was the goal.

“Now with slightly better conditions, the game has gone a bit more attack. There has been a lot of external pressure from the media and I guess supporters in general to try and play a more attacking style of rugby. When you see teams like France play on their day it’s very hard to not appreciate and get excited about the way they try and play the game. It is great to watch and England have always had that ability to go to that.

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“They don’t mind hiding behind the fact that set-piece and defence are always huge cornerstones of the way that any English team has played over the years. But for sure it has been pleasing to see a bit more attacking intent over the last couple of games.

“I don’t think that has never not been the intention. A lot is said about England not wanting to attack but any experience I have in camp that has never been a message pushed on us as players. It has always been ‘play in the right sort of way’.

“But yeah, it has been pleasing to see a slightly more expansive brand I guess of stuff from England whilst also winning because international rugby is fundamentally about winning.”

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'A lot is said about England not wanting to attack but that has never been a message pushed on us as players'

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