- Launchbury impresses coaches on first full debut
- England can build from close defeat
Andy Farrell described his performance against South Africa as exceptional and after three Test matches at the tender age of 21, Joe Launchbury is dealing well with the step up to the international stage.
For a lock, more so than others, South Africa provides the sternest examination of Test credentials in the tight and the loose, with recently retired Springbok legends Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha replaced by the likes of Eben Etzebeth, who Tom Wood described as “nine foot tall” after the match.
Speaking in the immediate aftermath of the 16-15 defeat to South Africa, Launchbury was understandably understated, saying he just tried to get involved where appropriate, make his tackles and carry the ball as hard as he could.
Keeping it simple clearly worked for the London Wasps man, given that in his 72 minutes on the field he was joint second carrier with 10; second top tackler with 11 (at 100 per cent success rate); and hit the second most rucks on 33, while winning two turnovers.
“The physical challenge of South Africa was massive and I really relished that,” he said.
“I don’t think there was any one thing that I did well, I was just part of a collective pack and luckily for us today the scrums went really well and certain areas of our game we can be really pleased with.”
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Willem Alberts’ fortuitous second-half try and 11 points from the boot of No.10 Pat Lambie were enough to secure the one point victory, holding off a late surge from England led by replacement fly half Owen Farrell’s three penalties which drew Stuart Lancaster’s side to within the closest of margins.
Launchbury believes England can be proud of many aspects of their game at the weekend but are discovering quickly that small margins make the difference between winning and losing at this level.
He added: “It was a typical Test match out there, very physical and confrontational, where the small margins cost us. We clawed back in the second-half but we didn’t quite have enough in the end.
“It was the same story as last week, we could’ve snatched it last week and could’ve quite easily snatched it again. We did a lot of good stuff and we’re building each week.
“But that’s the way it goes sometimes, I felt that we were on top in certain areas and can be pleased with much of the game but South Africa are a great side and when they got a 10 point lead it was difficult to get back.”