South Africa vs England: Joe Launchbury fit to return in hope of taking three-Test series to a decider

England have been given a lift ahead of their second Test against South Africa with the news that Joe Launchbury has been declared fit.

Launchbury was ruled out of the series opener at Ellis Park with a calf injury sustained in training before Eddie Jones’ squad departed and faced a race against time to be ready for Saturday’s Bloemfontein showdown.

But on Wednesday morning the Wasps captain was able to train with the squad for the first time since arriving in South Africa – and he is set to be drafted straight into the starting line-up.

“Joe Launchbury trained today (Wednesday) and trained well. He’s done a great job with his rehabilitation and is available for selection,” forwards coach Steve Borthwick said.

Launchbury will partner Maro Itoje in the second row for the Free State Stadium showdown as England stage their attempt to take the series to a decider in Cape Town, having been defeated 42-39 in the first Test.

The Wasps captain’s physical presence was missed at Ellis Park and in his absence 20-year-old Nick Isiekwe deputised, only to be substituted three minutes before half-time.

“Having a player of Joe’s quality available is great. Even though he hasn’t been playing he’s been absolutely brilliant around the squad,” Borthwick said.

“He’s a big lock but is also very talented. You can see his ability to run in the loose but also his ability in the tight.

“He’s very good around the maul, both in attack and defence. He’s a very good scrummager.”

Borthwick, who also revealed that third choice loosehead prop Ellis Genge has undergone a scan on a thigh issue, insists England remain buoyant despite seeing the first Test slip from their grasp having established a 21-point lead.

“We’re clearly disappointed by the defeat but there’s also a positivity about certain aspects of the game, such as that first 20 minutes,” he said.

“It was also positive that we got ourselves back into the game and took it close in the end. We have great resolve and determination to get the result we want this weekend.”

PA

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