Bagshot, England - A new generation of second-row "enforcers" go
head to head at Twickenham on Saturday as Joe Launchbury of England and Eben
Etzebeth of South Africa find themselves with the daunting label at the tender
age of 21.
Etzebeth has already earned rave reviews after nine Tests filling the boots
of former Springbok hard man Bakkies Botha while Launchbury will make his first
start after similarly impressing the England management in his two appearances
off the bench.
Etzebeth is free to play having been cleared of an eye gouging charge in
last week's win over Scotland, and having gone toe to toe with Australia's
Nathan Sharpe in the Rugby Championship, with just a hint of a headbutt thrown
in for good measure, he, at 2.03m and 123 kg, is clearly not a man to be
But then nor is Launchbury, who was brought in by Stuart Lancaster as one of
six changes from last week's defeat by Australia to add some beef to the pack.
Five centimetres shorter and eight kilograms lighter, Launchbury is
nevertheless a real force and he is looking forward to meeting up with Etzebeth
again having beaten him and his South African side in last year's under-20s
"Eben's doing a great job, he's six months younger than me and he's
playing his 10th Test so he's doing fantastically," Launchbury told
reporters on Thursday.
"If I can get up to his standards then that's great for me. He wasn't
so well known when we played in the under-20s and I've got very fond memories
of that game. We pipped it 26-20 but it was close right to the end.
"This Saturday is a big physical game for my first start but I do
really enjoy the physical side of things."
Launchbury's eyes were opened to South African rugby when he spent two
months training with Eastern Province two years ago.
Sent by his new club Wasps to work on his fitness, he discovered quickly that
it was sink or swim.
"My first day there I was literally straight off the plane and they
said 'right, live scrums and mauls tomorrow morning at 8am' so I thought 'ah,
so that's how you do things over here' and it was a bit of a culture
shock," he said.
"I'd gone from playing semi-pro rugby so it was a massive step up, the
physicality was huge and it really hit me.
"It's a real macho rugby culture but I got used to it quickly and by
the end I didn't want to come home."
Having toughened himself up physically, Launchbury soon found he had some
mental development to do as chaos off and on the field at Wasps last year meant
he became a regular for the London club when most of his peers in the
Premiership were playing reserve games.
"At the start of the season we thought we were going to have a strong
squad but we were decimated with injuries to the forwards and there were times
when we had eight or nine guys under-20 starting, which in the Premiership is
not ideal," he said.
"So we really had to grow up and play above our age, get stuck into
matches and not be too scared of our opposition.
"I played a lot of games last year that might have been stretched over
two or three years so it was good for me and I had to take a leading role in
"It was a steep learning curve for all of us and we've been able to
The result is a place in an England set-up geared very much for an assault
on the 2015 World Cup with Lancaster giving opportunities to the new
Launchbury, who grew up idolising World Cup winning-captain and fellow lock
Martin Johnson, says it is a place he can thrive.
"There are a lot of young guys with not too many caps and there are no
egos, no extended groups," he said.
"Everyone's in it together and it's a fantastic environment for me to
The clash at Twickenham kicks-off at 16:30 (SA time) on Saturday.
15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Manu Tuilagi, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 Mike
Brown, 10 Toby Flood, 9 Ben Youngs, 7 Chris Robshaw (captain), 6 Tom Wood , 5
Geoff Parling, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Alex Corbisiero
Substitutes: 16 David Paice, 17 David Wilson, 18 Mako Vunipola, 19 Mouritz
Botha, 20 James Haskell , 21 Danny Care, 22 Owen Farrell, 23 Jonathan Joseph
15 Zane Kirchner, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Jean de Villiers
(captain), 11 Francois Hougaard, 10 Pat Lambie, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Duane
Vermeulen, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Juandré Kruger, 4 Eben
Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Gurthrö Steenkamp
Substitutes: 16. Schalk Brits, 17 Heinke van der Merwe, 18 Pat Cilliers, 19
Flip van der Merwe, 20 Marcell Coetzee, 21 Elton Jantjies, 22 Jaco Taute, 23