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Launchbury return hands England huge boost


By Duncan Bech

England have been given a lift ahead of their second Test against South Africa with the news that Joe Launchbury has been declared fit.

Launchbury was ruled out of the series opener at Ellis Park with a calf injury sustained in training before Eddie Jones' squad departed and faced a race against time to be ready for Saturday's Bloemfontein showdown.

But yesterday morning the Wasps captain was able to train with the squad for the first time since arriving in South Africa - and he is set to be drafted straight into the starting line-up.

Forwards coach Steve Borthwick said: "Joe Launchbury trained today and trained well. He's done a great job with his rehabilitation and is available for selection."

Launchbury will partner Maro Itoje in the second row for the Free State Stadium showdown as England stage their attempt to take the series to a decider in Cape Town, having been defeated 42-39 in the first Test.

The Wasps captain's physical presence was missed at Ellis Park, and in his absence 20-year-old Nick Isiekwe deputised, only to be substituted three minutes before half-time.

"Having a player of Joe's quality available is great. Even though he hasn't been playing he's been brilliant around the squad," Borthwick said. "We have great resolve and determination to get the result this weekend."

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