Grounded Launchbury has no intention of being left on the shelf after England call-up
23:00 GMT, 8 November 2012
Joe Launchbury has revealed how he has gone from a supermarket shelf-stacker to England rugby international in only three years.
The 21-year-old spent five months working in a Horsham shop to fund a student gap year after he failed to gain a professional contract at Harlequins.
But his rugby took off again when he was signed up by ex-Wasps prop Will Green, who was coaching at Worthing in National League Two, and the 6ft 6 lock has never looked back.
He is now set to make his England debut in Saturday’s international as a substitute if required by head coach Stuart Lancaster.
Call-up: Joe Launchbury is in the England squad to face Fiji
‘It’s been a crazy few days,’ Launchbury admitted after Lancaster revealed his squad.
‘If someone had told me last Sunday, after finishing the game for Wasps at Saracens, my next game would be for England at Twickenham then I would not have believed them.’
Launchbury was called into the squad on Monday because of injury doubts over Wasps colleague Tom Palmer.
Though Palmer recovered from a calf strain to take up his place, Lancaster has kept Launchbury in the squad after deciding he would be the substitute lock ahead of Saracens’ Mouritz Botha.
‘Stuart has told me to treat it like any other game and not to worry that you are playing in front of 80,000 people.’
Stern test: Launchbury (right) attempts to grapple with Joe Marler
Lancaster had earmarked Launchbury for honours last May and took him on England’s tour to South Africa only for a knee injury to force the player to be sent home.
‘I was not the easiest person to live with last summer,’ Launchbury explained. ‘It was very disappointing not to get a game on the tour.’
As for the shelf-stacking, Launchbury confided the humble job had given him a good insight into every-day life.
‘I now know what can happen if rugby does not work out. For me to have this here (the England squad) is fantastic and I don’t want to go back to stacking shelves.
‘I did it for three or four months while I was on a gap year. It was to earn some money before I went travelling but the rugby started up and I never went off.’
Green signed up Launchbury, who was then 18, to play for Worthing and was so impressed that he quickly recommended the versatile forward to his old club of Wasps who gave him an opportunity in A league games.
Launchbury had just lost out on a professional contract at Harlequins after playing in the club’s academy while at Christ's Hospital School, Horsham.
‘Looking back it was the right decision (by Quins) because it really drove me and made me really get motivated. I joined Worthing and got back into the swing of things to play rugby.’