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England get fitness boost


England get crucial fitness boost as they try to rescue Springbok series

England have been given a major lift before their second Test with the Springboks with the news that Joe Launchbury has been passed fit to play.

The Wasps second row returned to full training following a calf problem.

“Joe Launchbury trained today and trained well. He’s done a great job with his rehabilitation and is available for selection” forwards coach Steve Borthwick said.

“Having a player of Joe’s quality available is great. He’s a big lock but is also very talented. You can see his ability to run in the loose but also his ability in the tight.

“He’s very good around the maul, both in attack and defence. He’s a very good scrummager.”

Launchbury, who missed the first Test, had been rated doubtful, which meant that Brad Shields was being hotly tipped to make his first start for England, packing down alongside Maro Itoje.

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Shields replaced Nick Isiekwe early in the first half in Johannesburg, with Jones looking to steady the ship as South Africa bounced back from a 21-point deficit. Shields played his first international test as a lock, a position he hasn’t played in more than four years in Super Rugby with the Hurricanes.

But it appears that now Launchbury is available, Shields will have to wait to make his first start, but Borthwick is impressed with what he’s seen from him so far.

“While Brad is not experienced at international level, he is a very, very experienced rugby player.

“The first thing that helps him fit in is his character. He has come into this squad, worked extremely hard, and earned the respect of his team-mates.”

It wasn’t all good news on the injury front, Ellis Genge has had a scan on a thigh problem and the loosehead is unlikely to be considered for the 23-man squad named on Thursday.

Meanwhile Borthwick insisted that the England squad remain upbeat going into the second Test.

“We’re clearly disappointed by the defeat but there’s also a positivity about certain aspects of the game, such as that first 20 minutes,” he said.

“It was also positive that we got ourselves back into the game and took it close in the end. We have great resolve and determination to get the result we want this weekend.”

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England get crucial fitness boost as they try to rescue Springbok series