Lancaster picks Launchbury for Bok clash
Having seen the power of South Africa up close during June's three-test series, England coach Stuart Lancaster has added some much-needed brawn to his team to face the Springboks at Twickenham on Saturday.
It is nine years to the day since England won the World Cup with a pack which had been described in New Zealandas "white Orcs on steroids" and the hewn-from-granite types such as Martin Johnson, Lawrence Dallaglio andRichard Hill have been replaced by more athletic but undoubtedly less daunting forwards.
With South Africa sure to provide their usual "man test", as replacement flanker James Haskell described their approach this week, Lancaster has toughened up the pack with six changes from the team beaten by Australia last week.
Lock Joe Launchbury will make his first start having added some power from the bench on his debut against Fiji and the Wallabies, as a replacement for Tom Palmer.
Palmer is out of the match squad with Natal-born Mouritz Botha, another lock from the old school, named among the replacements.
Blindside flanker Tom Wood, and No 8 Ben Morgan, both players who thrive on the physical challenge, take over from Tom Johnson and Thomas Waldrom while Alex Corbisiero comes in for the injured Joe Marler at loosehead prop.
Ben Youngs has regained the starting scrumhalf berth from Danny Care, who drops to the bench, while Mike Brownreplaces Charlie Sharples on the left wing.
Haskell and centre Jonathan Joseph were also named on the bench for the first time in the November series.
The selection of 21-year-old Launchbury is a just reward for his impact displays in the loose from the bench and, having come off second-best in the scrum against Australia, his pushing power should also stiffen England in the set-piece.
"He's done very well. As a coach you gain confidence in a player the more you work with them and put them in pressurized situations in training and in matches," Lancaster told reporters at England's windswept training base inSurrey.
"His impact in training is very impressive for a young man, he's virtually error-free in his core skills.
"He's also a big man and we're looking for the sort of physicality that he, and the likes of Botha and Haskell can bring."
Most of the changes had been signalled on Tuesday when Waldrom, Johnson and Sharples were dropped from the squad and Marler ruled out through injury and Lancaster said on Thursday he would have made some changes regardless of the Australia result.
"It was a bit of horses for courses, getting that physical presence," said Lancaster, whose team were beaten twice inSouth Africa in June before drawing the third test in Port Elizabeth.
"But we also took into account having lads chomping at the bit to prove a point, coming in like that it does make a difference."
The Springboks who have named the same team who beat Scotland 21-10 last week as they look to end their year with a European clean sweep after kicking off with victory in Ireland.
Until the 14-14 draw in June the Springboks had won nine in a row against England, whose last victory over them came in November 2006 at Twickenham - the last of their own seven-game winning run against them.
England: 15-Alex Goode, 14-Chris Ashton, 13-Manu Tuilagi, 12-Brad Barritt, 11-Mike Brown, 10-Toby Flood, 9-Ben Youngs; 8-Ben Morgan, 7-Chris Robshaw (captain), 6-Tom Wood, 5-Geoff Parling, 4-Joe Launchbury, 3-Dan Cole, 2-Tom Youngs, 1-Alex Corbisiero.
Replacements: 16-David Paice, 17-Dave Wilson, 18-Mako Vunipola, 19-Mouritz Botha, 20-James Haskell, 21-Danny Care, 22-Owen Farrell, 23-Jonathan Joseph.