Launchbury passed fit and Croft returns for England's Grand Slam decider with Wales
10:16 GMT, 14 March 2013
14:12 GMT, 14 March 2013
England today named key forward Joe Launchbury to start against Wales on Saturday despite the lock sustaining an elbow injury last Sunday against Italy.
The inform Wasps lock has had treatment all week on an elbow injury raising concern that he would miss out on England’s attempt at winning a first Grand Slam 2003.
But Launchbury was given the all-clear
this morning for a Cardiff showdown which will see England field a team
showing four changes to the one which started out in the disappointing
18-11 win over Italy.
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Back in action: Tom Croft is set to start for England for the first time since breaking his neck
As predicted by Sportsmail, fly half
Owen Farrell, scrum-half Ben Youngs and flanker Tom Croft all return
while prop Joe Marler has won the vote ahead of Mako Vunipola at loose
The four players who miss out – fly
half Toby Flood, scrum-half Danny Care, flanker James Haskell and
Vunipola – are all included on the England bench.
England's head coach coach Stuart
Lancaster said: ‘We want to finish well on what will be a fantastic
occasion in Cardiff. It will be a great experience for our English team.
'Every single player, whether they are
in the 23 or not this Saturday, has contributed to getting us in this
position and they should be proud of that.
'The support of the country has been great throughout the tournament and I am sure they will be right behind us come 5-o-clock.'
He added: 'Tom's extra lineout
presence will hopefully give us an advantage. He is clearly a quality
player and he has had a great impact since he has come back into the
Ready for battle: Croft will try and help England win the Grand Slam
Ready to go: Launchbury has been passed fit to face Wales
'I see it as an 80-minute game. James Haskell's impact coming off the bench will serve us better.'
Lancaster took the same approach to his decision to start with Marler and use Mako Vunipola as a high-impact replacement.
“Both props will play a big contribution. We believe Joe will give us the solidity in the scrum and then as the game wears on Mako will come on and do his thing.”
Although Flood kicked all of England's points against Italy and did little wrong, Farrell has reclaimed the fly-half jersey after shaking the thigh injury he sustained against France.
The Saracens fly-half did not enjoy his best day against Les Bleus but he will bring control and defensive ferocity which England will need in the cauldron of the Millennium Stadium.
“Clearly Wales will target that area and they will be coming down that channel and I am sure Owen will be ready for some work. We have got a big challenge coming our way but we will be ready for it,' Lancaster said.
Farrell and Youngs managed the game expertly against Ireland in Dublin earlier in the tournament and Lancaster will want them to replicate that performance.
England are chasing their first Grand Slam in a decade but Saturday's clash is a genuine title decider, with Wales capable of retaining their crown.
Inside Line: Season 3, Episode 9
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Lancaster is yet to lose an away game in the Six Nations and he believes those experiences and the memory of beating New Zealand at home in December will stand his men in good stead.
'When you look at this Welsh side, there are not many weaknesses,' Lancaster said.
'It will take an outstanding effort but we have done it before, we have been to away games and won. We have played the best side in the world at home and won.
'We have to deal with the occasion and play with composure and accuracy. There is a quiet self-belief.'