Lancaster primed for bruising battle
November 23, 2012
England coach Stuart Lancaster has made six changes to his side for Saturday's showdown with South Africa © PA Photos
England boss Stuart Lancaster has demanded his side front up to South Africa at Twickenham on Saturday.
An intense physical battle is expected at English rugby's HQ with the hosts hoping to bounce back from a disappointing showing in defeat to Australia last weekend while the Springboks are looking to bring the curtain down on their season by wrapping up an unbeaten end of year tour.
Lancaster has opted to make six changes to his side for their penultimate clash of the year, with the All Blacks set to visit next weekend, that will see a new-look pack including lock Joe Launchbury, making his first Test start, and No.8 Ben Morgan, in his first appearance of the autumn, go toe-to-toe with a battle-hardened Boks side in what the England boss views as the key battle. "If you don't match South Africa physically you aren't going to win. You have to win the gainline battle," said Lancaster.
The showdown between Launchbury and fellow rising star Eben Etzebeth has dominated much of the build up to the clash with the 21-year-old Springboks lock hailed as an 'enforcer' by his coach Heyneke Meyer.
"I remember watching Etzebeth at the U20 World Cup. He has been destined to be a Springbok for a long time. Joe's journey has been different but he is ready for this challenge," said Lancaster.
"You see what he's delivered off the bench against Fiji and Australia, his ability to deal with the international rugby, there's no reason why he shouldn't be an England player for a long time. Hopefully we should be sat here in seven or eight years time and I'll be saying 'Joe Launchbury's still the best'.
"But we don't need just one enforcer against the Springboks on Saturday, we need eight, added Lancaster, throwing down the gauntlet to his side. "We need all our pack to make sure that we are on top of their game to win the breakdown battle, the physical battle, the set-piece battle which will be a necessity to win the game."
The ferocity of South African rugby will be nothing new to Launchbury who spent six weeks with the Eastern Kings in Port Elizabeth before joining Wasps. "It's a very big physical game to start my first Test so I understand the responsibility. I do really enjoy that side of the game," recalled the fresh-faced 21-year-old.
"As a 19-year-old kid I really learned about the physicality they bring to everything they do. It was huge. They are very macho guys and they like to lift heavy weights.
"On my first day I turned up and was told it was live scrums and mauls at 8 o'clock next morning. It was a bit of a culture shock but by the end of the six weeks I was absolutely loving it. I believe we are right up there when it comes to physicality too."
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