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Joe Launchbury banned for two weeks after being found guilty of kicking

Joe Launchbury has been ruled out of the remaining two matches of England's autumn series after being found guilty of kicking Fiji's Asaeli Tikoirotuma.

Launchbury will miss the clashes with Argentina and Australia after his boot connected with the head of the Fijian outside centre in the 42nd minute of a record 58-15 victory at Twickenham.

The act was deemed reckless rather than deliberate and the low end sanction for the offence of a four-week ban was reduced to two weeks due to Launchbury's admission of guilt, his previous clean disciplinary record and good conduct at the hearing.

Launchbury appeared before a three-man independent disciplinary committee in London and accepted he had committed an act of foul play that would have warranted a red card.

The Wasps captain is free to play from December 5, two days after Australia conclude the autumn program at Twickenham, but has the right to appeal.

While Launchbury can have few complaints with the sanction - the kick left Tikoirotuma in significant discomfort - his absence is a major personal blow given his strong form against South Africa and Fiji.

The injury-enforced absence of Maro Itoje and George Kruis offered Launchbury the chance to revise Eddie Jones' second row hierarchy by resurrecting his lock partnership with Courtney Lawes.

His work-rate and impact on the opening two matches of the Old Mutual Wealth Series had served to illustrate England's extraordinary depth in the second row, but he must now resign himself to the role of spectator.

It is a less of a blow to his country, however, as fortuitous timing has seen Kruis make a rapid recovery from ankle surgery and he is available to start Saturday's showdown with the Pumas.

Adding to the number of options in the position is Dave Attwood, who has overcome the knee problem that forced him to miss the rout of Fiji and the Bath forward is in contention for selection.

Kruis is set to start against Argentina alongside Lawes and would resume calling the line-out.

"George has worked really hard on his rehab and he's done really well to get back so quickly," forwards coach Steve Borthwick said.

"He's been around in the later stages of his rehab and it's testament to his character that he's been able to get back from his injury so quickly. He's in contention for Argentina."

Jones is scheduled to name his team on Thursday morning and with the composition of his second row decided by Launchbury's suspension and Kruis' return, his focus up front will turn to openside where Teimana Harrison is likely to make way for Tom Wood.

England are expected to revert to their first choice starting XV against Argentina, who finished bottom of last summer's Rugby Championship, with Mike Brown returning at full-back.

The wings are fiercely contested, however, with Jonny May, Semesa Rokoduguni, Marland Yarde and Elliot Daly competing for the two slots available.

Meanwhile, Borthwick admits it would be an "honour" and "privilege" to act as forwards coach on the British and Irish Lions tour to New Zealand next summer.

Head coach Warren Gatland has already held talks with Borthwick, but his appointment has yet to be finalised.


From Belfast Telegraph