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Clubless England lock Joe Launchbury has named his new team

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Clubless England second row Joe Launchbury is set to relaunch his career in the 2023 Japanese League after he was confirmed as a new signing by Toyota Velblitz four-and-a-half weeks after the Wasps skipper was one of 167 players and staff made redundant when the Gallagher Premiership club collapsed on October 17.


Numerous players have since picked up new work in England, France and the URC. However, Launchbury has opted to venture further afield to get back in the game, a decision that will rule him out from England selection for the upcoming Guinness Six Nations.

The 30-year-old was last capped by Eddie Jones in the Six Nations defeat to Ireland last March, but he missed the July tour to Australia through injury and hasn’t been involved since then. With his international days now seemingly over for the moment after 70 caps, Launchbury has decided to take up an offer in Japan, a place he claims he always wanted to get back to after featuring there for England at the 2019 World Cup.

I’m so happy to be joining Toyota Verblitz for the 2022/23 Japan Rugby League One season. Since going to Japan for the World Cup in 2019, I have always wanted to come back. So to have the chance to sign for a great club like Toyota is something I am very excited about.

“My family and I are looking forward to experiencing Japan again and I’m personally looking forward to testing myself in the league and helping Toyota Verblitz have a good year.”

Toyota Verblitz general manager Akitomo Goto added: “We are looking forward to welcoming Joe Launchbury and his family to the team. Joe will be the first England international player who has joined Toyota Verblitz since the team’s founding in 1941. His addition to the team will bring extra diversity and depth to the squad.”


Launchbury had been a one-club man in England, joining Wasps in 2010 and making 180 appearances – including playing in all four of their matches in this season’s Premiership before the club’s RFU suspension was followed by everyone being made redundant. Reports since the Toyota signing statement have linked the lock with a switch to Harlequins for the 2023/24 Premiership season rather than a move to Racing in the Top 14.


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