Having played a number of games for Wasps this year and impressing on every outing, head coach Shaun Edwards has singled out the young second row as one to watch.
Launchbury was a late addition to the England U20s squad for the recent Six Nations having not been selected in the original squad, however, he proved a point when he was named in the starting line-up for the game against Scotland playing very well and then going on to earn the man of the match award in the final game of the competition against Ireland. Joe has also recently been tipped on RFU.com as one of ‘five to watch’ at the Junior World Cup.
Joe will be one of a number of familiar faces to Wasps fans at the Junior World Cup, with Sam Jones, Christian Wade and Elliot Daly also being selected for England. With four players in the squad, Wasps have the most representatives along with Harlequins in the U20 squad for this competition.
After flying out on Saturday Joe says that the first few days have been full of hard work to help the squad acclimatise to the environment as quickly as possible: “We got here in the late afternoon on Saturday. We didn’t do any training on the first night, we just settled in. We started then with two tough session on Sunday and Monday. They were both team based to get us working together again and get back to our basics.We have got another team session tomorrow to smooth out any issues that we haven’t already done in the last two days and then we’ve then got a team run on Thursday.
“Every day out here is going to change according to the fixtures. The last couple of days has been quite intense but once the games come around training is going to be far more game-focused and will be a lot lighter once we have settled into it. We are still acclimatising at the moment.”
After a full season with Wasps, most of the squad were given four weeks off to recover physically and mentally but those selected for international duty with the U20s have to wait until after the World Cup for their time off. This doesn’t seem to be a problem for Launchbury however, who says that he is happy to keep playing because he is really enjoying playing rugby at the moment. “My body is actually feeling really good. I’m still on a high coming out of the season despite the disappointment in terms of results. From a selfish point of view, I have featured in a good number of games. At the start of the season I was looking at playing a couple of LV=Cup games and maybe coming off the bench in the Premiership but it has turned out a lot better for me. I am really enjoying my rugby at the moment and I can’t wait for the first game to be honest.”
England play Ireland on Friday on June 10th at the Stadio Communale di Monigo in the first game of the pool stages. After beating Ireland 46-15 in the Six Nations competition in March you could forgive those involved in the England U20s camp feeling confident of a win in their first game but Launchbury insists that they are aware that Ireland can beat them if they don’t perform and will pose the young England side a number of threats when they meet. “We played Ireland in the recent Six Nations competition so we know roughly the areas that they are going to be strong in but we also believe that they are going to be a much better team going into the World Cup with a number of new boys coming into the squad. We just have to concentrate on our game plan and we have a good belief amongst the squad that we will come out on top if we do that well. They have got a very mobile back row who get around the park well and they are generally a very well organised side.
There is an air of confidence in the camp though about the tournament in general and an overriding sense of anticipation for what the team can do if they perform as a group. “We have only just arrived so it is all still a bit novel at the moment. All of the boys are exited to get going and make an impact if they are given the opportunity to do so. It is an encouraging environment. Training has been tough and we have all been working hard since we arrived so it is all really positive going into the first game.”
England play Ireland in their first game of the World Cup on Friday 10th June at the Stadio Communale di Monigo.