England tour of New Zealand: Joe Launchbury believes tour is a marker for 2015 World Cup
After a victorious weekend in Paris, the Wasps lock returned to British soil for 24 hours before jetting off to New Zealand for a tour with England, yet still found time to catch up with Sky Sports…
By Ben Hampshire | @BH92
Last Updated: 28/05/14 4:39pm
Joe Launchbury arrived in London from Paris on Sunday afternoon and was thrust into the heart of the England camp on Monday, ready to board yet another plane to New Zealand for the summer tour.
The 19-cap international spent Saturday afternoon helping London Wasps regain their place among Europe’s elite – beating Stade Francais 20-6 as they confirmed their place in the European Champions Cup – but his attention must rapidly turn to international affairs.
England travel to New Zealand for a three-Test tour against the reigning world champions and with the 2015 World Cup coming to Britain in just 15 months, Stuart Lancaster's side are out to prove they are able to match the world's elite.
Tests rarely come much bigger than taking on the All Blacks on their own turf, and Launchbury admits there is an air of excitement in the England camp.
Every time you pull on the shirt you have to try and lay down a marker because it can be a brief time in the shirt, but with a home World Cup around the corner there is no better chance than to lay down a marker than against New Zealand.
“I came into the camp on Monday after getting back from France and there is a nice buzz around the place, the guys have been here just over a week and are raring to go,” he told Sky Sports.
“It has definitely got me excited about going on the tour and it’s a great opportunity for the guys who have been named and us as a big squad to move forward.
“There are a lot of guys who are new to the squad as well as guys who’ve been here a few years, so there’s a nice blend and the mood is definitely excitement.
“We finished pretty well in the Six Nations but the challenge now is to go to the number one rugby country in the world and give it a go.”
It was an agonising end to the Six Nations for England as they lost out to Ireland on points difference, and their last meeting with the All Blacks ended in similarly excruciating fashion.
During the autumn international series, Lancaster’s men stretched New Zealand to the limit at Twickenham with a superb fightback – including a second Test try for Launchbury – but their spirited effort ultimately fell short as they slipped to a 30-22 defeat.
“We can definitely draw strength, we were unhappy to lose the game but when it comes to New Zealand they are a clinical side, if you give them chances they will take them,” he added.
“But we felt we were moving in the right direction and hopefully that will continue. Nothing is going to come easy this tour but I feel we’re in a good place moving forward.”
Lancaster takes seven uncapped players to Auckland for the first Test on June 7, with no Saracens or Northampton Saints players available due to the Aviva Premiership final.
However, with the Rugby World Cup touching down on British soil next year, Launchbury believes the omission of regular starters could be a blessing in disguise as opportunities arise for players to force their way into contention.
“Every time you pull on the shirt you have to try and lay down a marker because it can be a brief time in the shirt, but with a home World Cup around the corner there is no better chance than to lay down a marker than against New Zealand,” he claimed.
“A lot has been talked about but that was all done a long time ago and the people here are extremely excited about the opportunities ahead.
“It really does show a year out from the World Cup the depth of the squad and the strength of what we have to offer.”
As well as several new names in the England training squad, there was also a return for some more familiar faces as Lancaster recalled fly-half Danny Cipriani and Wasps back-row James Haskell.
Haskell has not featured for England since a substitute appearance in the 2013 Six Nations but Launchbury wholeheartedly endorsed his Wasps colleague.
“I haven’t got a bad word to say about James. He’s been awesome all year, he had a bit of trouble with injury over the summer but the way he’s come back and played, he’s been a massive part of the club’s improvement this year.
“He rightly deserves his call-up and I’m sure he’s really looking forward to the tour as well.
“He’s playing with confidence and when James plays with confidence he is very hard to stop, he’s a physical player and can stop teams on his own and he’s certainly doing that for us at club level.”
Haskell was involved in the build-up to both Wasps tries as they completed a 50-35 aggregate victory over Stade Francais to make a return to Europe’s premier competition.
With the Heineken Cup dissolved and the Champions Cup taking over, a new play-off between the seventh-placed Premiership and Top 14 sides was introduced and Launchbury admits it was always in Wasps’ sights.
“Ever since the play-off was announced we saw that as a great way for us to get back into Europe and playing against a strong Stade Francais side with only a one-point lead I think people wrote us off,” he added.
“But we went and played some of our best rugby of the year and it’s great to end the year like that.
“It was all about going over there as a squad and everybody was on the money; it was a great day for the club.
“You can talk all you like about how the club is improving off the field and on the field but really it comes in results and for us to be back in the top competition in Europe is something we’re proud of.”
Watch exclusive content from Joe Lanchbury and his England team-mates on tour in New Zealand with Player Diary from O2 and England Rugby, at o2insideline.com