Launchbury in as England beef up pack
Stuart Lancaster handed Joe Launchbury his first international start as part of England's "eight enforcers", a new-look pack charged with meeting South Africa's physical challenge head on.
Launchbury is one of six changes Lancaster has made from last weekend's 20-14 defeat to Australia, with Alex Corbisiero, Tom Wood and Ben Morgan joining him in a beefed-up forward unit. Ben Youngs edged the scrum-half debate, replacing Danny Care, and Mike Brown will start on the wing as England reprise their tactic of using two full-backs.
Launchbury is seen as England's version of Eben Etzebeth, the 21-year-old South Africa lock singled out by coach Heyneke Meyer as one of the key hard men. "I remember watching Etzebeth at the Under-20 World Cup. He has been destined to be a Springbok for a long time. Joe's journey has been different but he is ready for this challenge," Lancaster said.
Etzebeth only made his Test debut against England in June but Meyer, the former Leicester director of rugby, already rates him as one of the world's best second row forwards. Lancaster did not shy away from the comparisons but he warned England would need more than just Launchbury's power and dynamism if they are to douse the Springbok ferocity.
Lancaster added: "You see what he's delivered off the bench against Fiji and Australia, his ability to deal with the international rugby, there's no reason why he shouldn't be an England player for a long time.
"Hopefully we should be sat here in seven or eight years time and I'll be saying 'Joe Launchbury's still the best'. But we don't need just one enforcer against the Springboks on Saturday, we need eight.
"We need all our pack to make sure that we are on top of their game to win the breakdown battle, the physical battle, the set piece battle which will be a necessity to win the game."
England, surprisingly, fell short on that front last week. Australia edged the scrum battle for an hour and the Wallabies' flanker Michael Hooper dominated the breakdown contest.
Six changes - including half the forward pack - is a substantial number but Lancaster insisted it was no knee-jerk reaction. A similar number of changes would have been made had England beaten the Wallabies.
Launchbury takes over from Tom Palmer on form but the returns of Corbisiero, Wood and Morgan had all been in the pipeline and they will all add steel to the pack.