England's Joe Launchbury set to return for Wasps on Saturday
By Andy Charles
Last Updated: 11/01/17 12:49pm
Joe Launchbury is set to give England a welcome boost by returning to action with Wasps against Toulouse on Saturday.
The lock had been one of a host of injury concerns for England head coach Eddie Jones ahead of the Six Nations opener against France at Twickenham on February 4.
Launchbury has been struggling with a calf problem but he is set to play for Wasps in their European Champions Cup Pool 2 match with Toulouse and offer Jones an extra second-row option.
Jones is already without Chris Robshaw, Billy Vunipola and Joe Marler for the France match, while there are doubts of over the fitness of Mako Vunipola and James Haskell.
But Launchbury hopes to be somewhere near 100 per cent by then, with the chance to play a couple of European matches for his club as a tune-up.
"The rehab has gone really well. As soon as I did it I was always really hopeful for this weekend," Launchbury said.
"I'm delighted how it's gone and how the calf feels, so I'm ready to go again."
The injuries to Robshaw and Billy Vunipola mean Maro Itoje may move from lock to blindside flanker, with Launchbury or Courtney Lawes partnering George Kruis in the second row, with the Saracens man expected to be fit after a fractured cheekbone.
Launchbury is confident Itoje has the quality to produce a big performance if he is handed the No 6 shirt.
"Maro is talented enough and has the athleticism to play six, but there's a whole host of players who can certainly play there," he added.
"Eddie has spoken about Chris and his value to the team, but as players we have known his value for an extremely long time.
"He's always the guy who is making a cover tackle in the corner or going the extra yard. He'll be a massive loss for us, but whoever comes in - just like in November when there were some injuries - I'm sure it'll be fine."