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Young lauds Launchbury talent

Wasps boss David Young believes England lock Joe Launchbury is "touching world class" following his continued excellence for club and country this season.

Launchbury has a pivotal role to play on Saturday when Wasps target a victory over Amlin Challenge Cup rivals Bayonne at Stade Jean Dauger that would confirm their quarter-final status.

The 22-year-old will also be an integral part of England's RBS 6 Nations title bid, starting against France in Paris next month, and Young has no doubt about his quality.

"Joe is unbelievable," Young said.

"Since I have been here, he has never been anything less than good for us.

"He is either very good or excellent and he does the bread and butter stuff as a forward really well, while also possessing that bit of X factor.

"When we have been struggling and not getting the go-forward ball, Joe has stuck his hand up and taken responsibility to make the big carries to allow others to play well.

"We keep on talking about Joe's potential, but he is already there, not only as an international lock but also touching world class.

"He does that both in an England jersey and also a Wasps one, and, rather than looking lucky to be at that level, he now looks like one of the leading lights in the England side."

Wasps have beaten Bayonne five times in seven previous meetings, including a 12-3 away success during the 2009-10 European campaign, and a repeat performance this weekend would guarantee they finish top of Pool Four.

"Bayonne are a side that we have got to know very well over the past few seasons," Young added.

"They are a very good side with some very talented players in their ranks, and their performances at home tend to be very strong. We must focus on producing a clinical performance."

Bath scrum-half Peter Stringer has urged caution when the west country club tackle Newport Gwent Dragons at Rodney Parade.

Stringer and company have one foot in the last eight courtesy of an unbeaten Pool Two record, and they are certain to progress if they can collect just two more match points from two games.

"I played against (the Dragons) a number of times when I was at Munster, and Rodney Parade is a difficult place to play," Stringer said.

"We can't afford any slip-ups, and it is all about building momentum and keeping the pressure on ourselves to perform as well as we can and as well as we have been."

Bath head coach Mike Ford has made 12 changes from the side which drew away to Aviva Premiership play-off rivals Leicester last weekend, although England Six Nations squad member Anthony Watson is retained, starting at full-back.

Elsewhere, Gavin Henson features in midfield, with Henson's fellow Wales international Paul James captaining the team and Tom Heathcote wearing the number 10 shirt instead of new England call-up George Ford.

London Irish, meanwhile, require a bonus-point win against Pool Five visitors Lusitanos on Saturday to keep pace with group leaders Stade Francais.

The French club are in pole position to reach the quarter-finals but an Irish win would at least ensure that nothing is decided until next week's final round of fixtures.

"A lot of the team that played against Worcester last weekend are involved in the squad again on Saturday," Irish rugby director Brian Smith said.

"And we are also giving those that have had limited game time an opportunity to put their case forward to play when the Premiership starts again."


From Belfast Telegraph