- Youngster thankful for "fantastic experience" of training with seniors
- Launchbury praises attitude of former Under 20 teammate Owen Farrell
A humble Joe Launchbury says that training with Stuart Lancaster’s England squad this week has been a "fantastic experience", providing an invaluable chance to showcase his capabilities in front of the senior coaching staff.
Launchbury, who played a central role in the immense success of the England Under 20 side last season, was named Player's Player of the Year as Rob Hunter's men won a Six Nations Grand Slam before being agonisingly ousted by New Zealand in the final of the Junior World Championship.
However, speaking earlier at Pennyhill Park, he admitted that this opportunity had at first seemed too good to be true.
"I have really enjoyed it," the London Wasp told RFU.com. "I wasn’t expecting a call but it was a nice surprise and I’ve been able to come in, try my best and show what I can do.
"I was just having lunch with a friend when I got the call which, initially, I thought was a prank. Luckily, it wasn’t.”"
Though the 20 year-old lock-cum-back-rower has seen his game time drastically limited this season because of injury, he has now featured in two consecutive Aviva Premiership fixtures and was a stand-out performer in Wasps’ vital 18-13 win over London Irish at Adam’s Park on Saturday.
Photo: Getty Images
Rather than being nurtured by a club academy during his formative years, Launchbury played the majority of his rugby at Christ’s Hospital School in Horsham and he continued to reflect on his unlikely path in the sport.
"It’s been pretty unconventional really," he conceded. "I went to boarding school so that limited a few options in terms of academy rugby.
"I was with Harelquins but used to struggle to make it to training. On my year out though, I played down in Worthing and loved it. Will Green was the head coach and, as a former Wasp himself, he set me up. I haven’t really looked back."
Turning back to his sensational campaign for the Under 20 in 2011, Launchbury had some words of praise for former international teammate Owen Farrell, who has made a seamless transition into the Test arena in the opening fixtures of this year’s RBS 6 Nations:
"I’m not really surprised at his success at all. I think all the guys in the 20s last year would agree with that. He is a fantastic player and has a great future ahead of him.
"He seems to be extremely level-headed and not much fazes him. That is a great attribute, especially for someone so young. As a fly half, he will need those qualities and they will stand him in good stead.
"We had a great team last year," Launchbury added. "The reason the 20s is there is to provide a pathway up to the senior team. That’s exactly what it does.
"Coming here this week has obviously been a step up, but there are certainly similarities between the 20s and here. That is why it is such a good place to play."