Launchbury eyeing Tigers comeback
England lock Joe Launchbury is hopeful of making his comeback in Wasps' Aviva Premiership clash with Leicester on May 9 as the final stage of his rehabilitation enters "crunch time".
Launchbury has been sidelined since October because of a nerve problem caused by a bulging disc in his neck, but is close to regaining full fitness with the showdown against the Tigers pencilled in for his return.
If the 24-year-old is given the all-clear to face the Tigers in a match that could be crucial to Wasps' play-off prospects, it will be his debut at the club's new home at the Ricoh Arena.
"I'm approaching six months out of the game, so it's been a long time. Now I'm approaching sort of the crunch time of the rehab." Launchbury said.
"I'm building towards full contact training. A long injury, especially to the neck, is a gradual process to go through and you need to jump through a few hoops in terms of contact.
"Each stage I've taken on so far I've passed, so I'm really happy with where I am and hopefully over the next few weeks we can really ramp things up.
"I'm starting to feel really good and hopefully I'll hit my straps when I come back.
"It's always been hard to nail down a time to come back but given where I am now, I'm really setting my sights on Leicester at home in a few weeks' time.
"We're targeting that game, but it will only happen if everyone around me is 100 per cent sure that that's the right decision and my neck is in the best place it can be."
Launchbury's absence has spanned nine missed Tests for England, comprising of the entire autumn schedule and the recent RBS 6 Nations.
The Red Rose have missed his athleticism, work over the ball and tackle-count and if fit he is a certainty to make their World Cup squad with the global showpiece on home soil fuelling his determination to make a full recovery.
"There is an element of pressure - I really want to turn up to the training camps with a green ticket to my name as a fit player," he said.
"I think that will be important heading into what's going to be a long and tough pre-season camp.
"I want to remind people what I can do on a pitch. Six months is a long time so hopefully I can get back out there and play well.
"The World Cup has been the biggest carrot throughout this injury. It's been a long time, but I've had that every day in the back of my mind that I'm desperate to be there.
"Not many players get a chance to play in a home World Cup and hopefully I can get back fit and find the same form I had before my injury."
The lengthy lay-off has not come without its benefits, however, with Launchbury able to spend more time at home following the birth of his daughter Blythe.
"Within two weeks of having my operation it was the birth of my first child, so in that sense it's been brilliant to spend some time at home and really help my partner," he said.
"It's been a great stage in my life for that and it's been great to be there for it."