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We are over Cardiff - Launchbury

Joe Launchbury insists England are ready to continue dispelling the concerns raised by last year's RBS 6 Nations mauling in Cardiff.

Stuart Lancaster's side, chasing a Grand Slam, were overwhelmed 30-3 by Wales in a defeat that led to claims the team would have to be rebuilt.

But a successful autumn featuring wins against Australia and Argentina and a narrow loss to New Zealand proves to Launchbury that England posses a pack capable of mixing it with top teams.

"I'd say we've removed any lingering doubt over our physicality, but the question will continue to be asked," the Wasps lock said.

"We went to Argentina and played well there. We had three tough autumn matches and don't think anyone could say we lacked bite in those matches.

"I'd like to think we're well and truly past that and have grown as a team.

"We had one day in Cardiff when it didn't go as we would have wanted, but since then the focus has been on us improving.

"Hopefully we showed where we are in the autumn and we'll continue to do that in the Six Nations."

England open their 2014 Six Nations against France in Paris on Saturday in an opening-day title clash that will have a profound impact on the rivals' championships.

Les Bleus finished bottom of the table last season and while Launchbury regards that position as an aberration, he insists England have the belief they can open the year with a victory.

"A lot of people are tipping France to be champions," the 22-year-old said.

"We know what a great side they are and their club teams have gone well in Europe on the whole.

"We're going to Paris first up so it's a tough game, but we're quietly confident about where we are."

Launchbury has been battle-hardened for Saturday's showdown by playing home and away Amlin Challenge Cup ties against Bayonne and Grenoble this season.

"The biggest thing I took from those games is travelling away to France, going over there and playing big heavy French packs," he said.

"The games went pretty well. We got two wins away from home and definitely enjoyed our time out there.

"French packs down the years have been pretty big and heavy. Looking at their 23 for the weekend their front five look to be in the mould."


From Belfast Telegraph