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England lock Launchbury fit to face South Africa

2 min

Johannesburg (AFP)

Under-pressure England received a big boost Wednesday when lock Joe Launchbury was declared fit for a must-win second Test against South Africa in Bloemfontein this weekend.

The forward had been considered a doubt because of a calf injury that ruled him out of the first Test in Johannesburg last weekend, which England lost 42-39 after leading by 21 points.

England have to win the remaining two Tests, in Bloemfontein Saturday and in Cape Town seven days later, to achieve a first series success in the republic.

Launchbury is expected to be named as the second row partner of Maro Itoje when coach Eddie Jones reveals his starting line-up Thursday.

Nick Isiekwe replaced Launchbury in Johannesburg only be suffer the embarrassment of being substituted before half-time -- an unusual step in a Test unless a player is injured.

Scrum coach Neal Hatley was pessimistic about Launchbury being available for Bloemfontein when he spoke to reporters Tuesday in Durban, the England base throughout the series.

But forwards coach Steve Borthwick said Wednesday that the lock had recovered, was fully involved in training and available for selection.

Australia-born Jones is expected to make several changes to the first Test run-on team as he seeks to snap a run of five consecutive losses.

Having won 22 of his first 23 Tests, Jones has overseen losses to Scotland, France and Ireland in the Six Nations Championship, the Barbarians and South Africa.

England beat South Africa 27-22 when they first met in Bloemfontein 18 years ago, but were thrashed 58-10 in the only other Test there between the countries.

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