Joe Launchbury targets a return to England team in 2023
Joe Launchbury targets a return to the England team under Steve Borthwick in time for the World Cup after Wasps’ demise forced their skipper to move to Japan – where he broke his hand on his Toyota Verblitz debut – before summer move to Harlequins
- Joe Launchbury is eligible for England as his move was down to Wasps’ demise
- The 31-year-old lock has 70 England caps and brings plenty of experience
- READ: Elliot Daly and Jamie George join Courtney Lawes on England’s injury list
The last few months of 2022 couldn’t have gone much worse for Joe Launchbury
After Wasps – the club he captained – went bust and the England lock moved to Japan in search of work, he broke his hand playing for new club Toyota Verblitz on Christmas Day.
Launchbury is hoping for better luck this year. A return to Test rugby and a place back in new England head coach Steve Borthwick’s squad for the World Cup is the target.
Joe Launchbury was forced to leave Wasps – where he was captain – after the club went bust
‘The desire to play international rugby is something you don’t ever really lose. It’s still there for me,’ Launchbury told Sportsmail from the Far East.
‘I understand that being over here now is making it harder for myself and I’m missing the Six Nations but for sure it (England) is something I’m passionate about. I’ve been in conversation with Steve.’
Like all the players at Wasps and Worcester, Launchbury lost his job when the two clubs fell out of existence in what amounted to an unprecedented financial crisis for the English game.
The lock admitted that he is still passionate about playing international rugby
The experienced lock subsequently upped sticks for a short-term move to Japan’s Rugby League One.
He will return to England with Harlequins for next season and hopes to feature in the World Cup.
Launchbury remains eligible to play for England because his decision to move abroad was forced by the demise of his club. But his hand injury means he isn’t part of the Six Nations squad.
The 31-year-old has 70 caps for his country and can offer Steve Borthwick a wealth of experience
‘Christmas Day was a bad day for me,’ he said. ‘It was very different compared to Christmas back home and then I broke my hand in my first involvement during the game.
Steve Borthwick’s first game in charge of England is against Scotland on February 4
‘It wasn’t the best start to my time over here and certainly not the best Christmas present. The plan wasn’t to get injured so early on but I can’t speak highly enough of my experience.
‘From where I was a few months ago to where I am now, I’m just so grateful.’
Launchbury is still only 31 and with 70 Test caps, has a wealth of England experience that Borthwick will surely find hard to ignore once he is back on home shores.
‘My experience of Steve is that he’s a very experienced coach and very knowledgeable around the forwards,’ Launchbury said.
‘I imagine he’ll get that forward pack back being feared by some other teams which maybe they haven’t been over the last period of time.
‘There will be a bit of a reaction from them in the Six Nations which is a hugely challenging tournament. I expect England to compete much more than they have over the past few games.’
England open up their Six Nations campaign against Scotland at Twickenham on February 4 for what will be Borthwick’s first game since in charge since he succeeded Eddie Jones.
The former Wasps captain is still eligible for England as his move overseas was prompted by his club’s demise
Launchbury, for now, will be limited to a role of an interested observer. He also wants to see change in English rugby in the wake of the demise of his old club.
‘I don’t know how it was allowed to get to that situation,’ said Launchbury.
‘I still firmly believe there’s no way a professional sport as big as ours could allow two of the top 12 teams in the country to go like they did. I think clearly it’s got to force change.
‘It’s too little, too late for two clubs but the fact there are more conversations around it is only good moving forward. The RFU have a lot in their in-tray at the moment, but hopefully working out a path forward for the game is something they have to do.’
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