Launchbury ready for ‘hardest group in World Cup history’
Joe Launchbury and his England teammates have been hard at work preparing for their Rugby World Cup ‘pool of death’ and he says they are in a good place with seven days to go until the tournament.
England kick off their Rugby World Cup campaign against Fiji on Friday 18 September at Twickenham, before facing the challenges of Wales, Australia and Uruguay as they try to progress out of Pool A and into the Quarter Finals.
It has been well-documented that the preparations for the competition have pushed the players hard, which Launchbury confirms, saying ‘we have taken ourselves to levels we have never been to before training wise. However, for the 24-year-old lock, the challenges of pre-season have been far outweighed by the joy of being fully involved following his long injury lay-off.
“It’s been a steep learning curve again for me. I’ve had a bitterly frustrating year, missing a lot of rugby both for club and country. To miss the move to Coventry and everything that came with that, as well as the great success we’ve had at the club this year was hard. To get back in time for a couple of games at the end of the season and then to kick on with England this summer and train fully this past 12 weeks, has been great. I’ve not had to worry about my neck one bit, I’ve been involved with everything, full on contact every session, so I feel in a good place and am really happy with how the neck’s gone.
“There has been a lot made of what we’ve been up to and I’m sure every international team has been training hard to prepare themselves for the World Cup. It has been really good to push ourselves but, more importantly, doing those hard sessions with your teammates has made us pretty close as a bunch. Us 31 going into the tournament are a tight nit group from the 12 weeks of hard pre-season.”
A World Cup in England brings with it a huge amount of pressure for the national team and, as the country builds up to a tournament that has been at the front of people’s minds for so long. Launchbury says they are fully aware of the challenge that faces them.
“We’ve had it penned in the diary for a long, long time. As the weeks have gone by we’ve had some tough sessions, some tough training, but across the twelve weeks we’re pretty happy with how it’s gone and the position we are in with seven days to go.
“We are under no illusions about where we are, from across the three games. There are certain areas we didn’t get right and we’re constantly striving to get better. The away game against France sticks out as a poor performance and it’s a good benchmark to know we have to keep driving to get better. That’s what warm-up games are for, to get mistakes out of the system early, and now we are in a position where we’re training hard with seven days to go.
“Being back at Twickenham was great for the players, we really enjoy playing there and we tend to play some of our best games there. We enjoyed being there, but more importantly the performance was good. I felt that we started the game in a really strong way and we put what is an extremely talented Irish team under a lot of pressure early doors and that was probably where the game was won.
“We know exactly how tough the pool group is. You hear people saying it’s one of the hardest groups in World Cup history and it’s certainly up there. Four of the five teams are in the top ten in the world so it’s an extremely tough group and it starts against Fiji. We’ve been watching clips of Fiji playing in the Pacific Nations Cup and in their warm-up games and they have some extremely useful players who play in Europe, so we’re not underestimating their challenge.
“Fiji have always had some very talented athletes, but what they’ve developed is more of a hard-nosed edge up front. They have some great players, the guy in the second row Nakawara who plays up at Glasgow, playing the same position as me, he’s definitely someone to look out for.”
While Launchbury and fellow Wasp James Haskell are representing their country on the World Cup stage, their club mates will begin the Aviva Premiership in earnest, with Harlequins at the Stoop and Bath at the Ricoh Arena the first two challenges of the new campaign. Launchbury says that, having spoken to the Wasps guys in his time away from the training pitch, he has every confidence that Wasps can pick up some big results in the early part of the season, before the internationals rejoin the squad.
“I’ve seen a few of the boys on our days off and they’re all really happy with how pre-season has gone. It’s a great bunch of boys at Wasps and there are some new guys who, by all accounts, have added a lot to the team environment.
“The start is really important, they put up a good fight against Samoa and with two more pre-season games to get things right the games will start coming thick and fast and we’ll be keeping an eye on results against Quins and that really important first home game against Bath, while we’re away.”
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