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Launchbury urged to take on rivals

Joe Launchbury must relish every single tussle with his England rivals between now and Rugby World Cup 2015, according to Wasps boss Dai Young.

Launchbury will face England team-mate and World Cup squad rival Courtney Lawes when Wasps host champions Northampton in Sunday's Aviva Premiership clash.

Rugby director Young admitted he wants his Wasps stars to relish one-on-one international battles thrown up on club duty.

While some coaches will ask their stars to focus solely on the club job in hand, Young believes the added international incentive can often sharpen resolve.

"The World Cup is still a long way away, but our players do realise that how they fare against direct rivals will have a big bearing on how things turn out for them," Young told Press Association Sport.

"They have to have first-rate club form before anything else, to prove they are worthy of international selection.

"They are all bright enough to understand that if they don't get it right at club level they will not get those international chances they are after.

"Everybody wants to play for their country and the way to do that is for them to play well for their club.

"But there's no harm in them meeting the challenge head-on of going toe to toe with a potential international rival.

"So when guys like Joe go up against fellow top players like Courtney Lawes, they know more than ever they need a big game.

"They've got to keep their heads and do the right things to win the games, but everyone knows that battle is there and hopefully it spurs the players on."

Wasps have been forced to entertain Northampton without star wing Christian Wade, who was "shaken up" though not seriously hurt after a minor car accident on Thursday.

Tom Varndell and Sailosi Tagicakibau will vie to keep Saints' Wales and British and Irish Lions sensation George North quiet, following his opening-day hat-trick against Gloucester.

North started the new campaign in the form he finished the last, his treble easing Saints to a 53-6 home drubbing of the Cherry and Whites.

Wasps coach and former Wales and Lions playmaker Stephen Jones now believes North can rewrite almost every stats and history book going.

The former Scarlets flyer already boasts 42 caps at 22, sitting eighth on Wales' all-time try-scoring list with 18 international finishes.

North could overtake Wales greats Gareth Edwards and Gerald Davies on the try-scoring charts in the autumn Tests.

For Sunday at least, Jones said Wasps must starve North and Saints' back-three of any meaningful possession.

"He could pretty much break every record out there, given what he's achieved already," Jones told Press Association Sport.

"What he's done so far is special isn't it, for such a young man?

"George works so hard at his game, he's great physically, he puts a lot of time to making sure he's in good condition.

"His work off his wing is top-drawer, his strength in contact is fantastic, and then for a big man he moves really well, he's very balanced.

"He's done so well and his game is evolving and improving all the time.

"There aren't many guys at his age who have achieved so much in fairness.

"To have won a Lions series, winning the league last and the Amlin Cup last year, then he's got all those caps for Wales.

"The only thing left for him is the World Cup - obviously that's next!

"In fairness the key to any good team is they've got threats across the board and they certainly have that.

"Our kicking has to be spot-on, we can't give him space to run at us, we've got to make sure we're organised and we're controlling when he has the ball.

"And that's going to be a big challenge for us."


From Belfast Telegraph