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England pick Joe Launchbury but there is no call for Manu Tuilagi

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

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England boss Eddie Jones has recalled fit-again Joe Launchbury to his squad for next Sunday’s round two Guinness Six Nations match away to Italy in Rome, adding that Courtney Lawes has less than a 50 per cent chance of being able to play due to his ongoing concussion issue. There has also been no recall for Manu Tuilagi, who played his first rugby in eleven weeks last Sunday.  

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The 30-year-old Launchbury earned the last of his 69 England caps in the December 2020 Autumn Nations Cup final versus France. He missed last year’s Six Nations with a stress fracture having been initially chosen in the original England squad for the tournament and he then suffered the complete rupture of his anterior cruciate ligament last April.

Launchbury returned to action in recent weeks with Wasps and has now been called up by England as Lewis Ludlam has a rib cartilage problem and won’t be fit to face Italy having started last Saturday versus Scotland. 

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Jones has yet to confirm the full make-up of his England squad to face the Italians as he was waiting on the completion of covid and medical tests after the players assembled at Pennyhill Park on Tuesday, but there was no Six Nations recall for Tuilagi. 

“Just in terms of the squad we will update it fully post the medicals, the players are all coming in now given all the covid regulations etc. But just to give you one update, Joe Launchbury will come in for Lewis Ludlam who has a rib injury and will be out for the next couple of weeks,” said Jones. 

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“Lewis has got a bit of a rib cartilage injury and all things being equal he will be a reasonable chance to play against Wales,” explained the coach about his injured forward. Regarding the called-up Launchbury, he added: “Joe is a good Test lock. He is an outstanding mauler, he is a guy that is tough around the one-pass play around the ruck and he brings a lot of experience. At the moment experience is not something we have got a lot of.” 

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Injured when scoring an England try versus South Africa in November, Tuilagi played his first match since then when appearing off the bench last Sunday for the closing 30 minutes of Sale’s Gallagher Premiership win at Harlequins. 

Sale boss Alex Sanderson suggested in the aftermath that his player could perhaps do with some additional game time for his club before getting recalled to the England set-up. “Manu came through well but obviously playing in a fully-loaded international match from the start needs building up to,” he said. 

On Tuilagi, Jones said on Tuesday: “We will continue to monitor his progress, continue to talk to Sale about how his training volume, his training load is going. We have got to be cognizant of the fact that he is a player over 30 now and we need him to get a bit more game time, a bit more training into him.”  

Asked about the chances of Lawes being involved versus Italy, Jones continued: “Outside at this stage. He is progressing nicely, he has started lifting and running but with all these sorts of injuries the most important thing is the welfare of Courtney and unless he is able to train fully tomorrow [Wednesday] then the likelihood is being fit for Italy is less than 50 power cent.”  

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Reflecting on the 20-17 round one loss at Murrayfield, Jones added: “We’re disappointed by the result against Scotland, particularly given the way we played in the first 60 minutes of the game but we have drawn a line in the sand on that and we have moved onto Italy and our aim is to make sure we light up Rome this week with a really good, energetic purposeful performance to build on what we did against Scotland.”

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