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Rugby | Springboks

England sweat on Launchbury

There was good and bad news for England as they resumed training on Tuesday following the extra day’s break they were given by coach Eddie Jones following the high intensity first test against the Springboks at the weekend.

The good news for them was seeing reserve hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie take part in the morning training session, and he has been cleared to play in the second test in Bloemfontein on Saturday. Jack Singleton has been flown out from England to add to the reserve depth in the position but it looks unlikely he will be called on - at least not for this test.

“Luke was able to train. We did some live scrums and Luke took part in those. He’s good to go,” said scrum coach Neal Hatley at a press conference across the road from the team hotel in Umhlanga Rocks.

The news is not so good though over perhaps a more important figure in the England line-up, lock Joe Launchbury.

The second row forward is one of Jones’s key players but was unable to play in the first test at Emirates Airlines Park because of a calf problem picked up 11 days ago.

He’s on the mend, but he didn’t train with the rest of the England players on Tuesday morning.

“Joe was at training this morning but was training on his own,” said Hatley.

There is a chance that he could still play, and after the England tight five battled in the middle 40 minutes of the Johannesburg game, Jones would surely be eager to give him as long as possible to prove his fitness for what is now a must win game for England.

“He was training reasonably well so we’ll see where he is later in the week. We will see if he is able to train tomorrow (Wednesday). We need to see how he feels after seeing the physios.”

If Launchbury is ruled out there could be a dramatic reshuffle to the England pack for the Bloemfontein game as 19-year-old Nick Isiekwe was substituted before halftime in Johannesburg.

Maro Itoje was poor in the second test and Jonny Hill is the only other option so unless Jones finds faith in Isiekwe again, Hurricanes captain Brad Shields, normally a flank, could find himself starting in the second row.

Meanwhile, although the bumps and bruises that were the legacy of the furious and fiercely contested first test kept the players from the field on Monday, Hatley believes the squad is in a good space and has done the necessary analysis needed to overturn the first test defeat.

"We've had a good look at the first test and have identified the areas that we need to address and the areas which we thought we did well in.

First and foremost we want a win. We scored close to 40 points at Ellis Park so we're pleased with a lot of the things we did in attacking including five tries. It's just other areas that we need to tighten up on.”

The England team for the second test will be named on Thursday and the squad will fly to Bloemfontein on Friday.


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