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Exclusive: Fire to play for England still burns bright for Joe Launchbury

Joe Launchbury

Joe Launchbury has revealed that his burning desire to continue fighting for his country persuaded him to eschew exploring opportunities abroad in favour of a new contract at Wasps.

Launchbury says loyalty to his club and boss Dai Young also played a part in his decision, defying constant speculation linking him with moves away.

Launchbury was largely snubbed by England during the World Cup, with England supremo Eddie Jones favouring Maro Itoje, Courtney Lawes and George Kruis in his engine room.

He was limited to one start in the second Pool match against USA, playing just 49 minutes.

Yet he remains undeterred, telling The Rugby Paper: “Obviously I would have loved to play more but the World Cup was fantastic in so many ways.

“It was a brilliant opportunity with so many great occasions and although we were upset at the end, I was delighted with the campaign and our camp.

“In terms of my input on the team I was really pleased with how I went and the desire to play for England still burns as brightly as it ever has.

“It’s a hugely exciting time to be part of that squad – a really young, hungry squad with a lot of good character – and I’d love to continue being part of it.

“A lot of things are out of my control, so all I can do is come back and play well for Wasps and that also influenced my decision to sign a new deal here.”

Captain: Joe Lauchbury has unfinished business at Wasps and in the England fold. Getty Images

Asked if he considered moving abroad, Launchbury, 28, said: “Those opportunities always cross your mind but I love playing for England. It’s such a massive honour so as long as that fire still burns and the opportunity is there, I want to stay in England.”

On opting to extend his nine-year Wasps career, he added: “Whenever you come out of contract it’s important that you explore whether it’s best to stay.

“Careers are short and it’s important you have the right challenge and opportunities to become a better player, but I still see Wasps as the right place.

“The sentimental ties and the time I’ve spent here is one side of it, but I also feel that from the performance side I get enough from being here.

“I love being a senior player and feel I can help the squad and club kick-on over the next few years, plus it helps that Dai’s been a constant in my career. We’ve got a good relationship and hopefully I can help him as much as he’s always helped me.”

With one win in five league games, Wasps’ position in the Premiership’s bottom three is parlous.

Launchbury admits: “The bare bones of the league table don’t lie and we’re certainly not hiding from anything, but it’s still very early in the season and we’re optimistic that we’ve got the right people here to start getting a string of good results.

“Some big players have left but I think we’ve recruited strongly and we have more strength in depth now, so in such a tight league you can climb quickly.

“There’s little between teams and the next block of games over Christmas will be important.”

While a minor calf injury has been irritating, Launchbury is targeting a return against Edinburgh this weekend and has put Itoje, Lawes and Kruis on notice ahead of the Six Nations.

He added: “They’re all slightly different players who are fantastic in their own right and are proven at international level, but I’ve always been told by the England coaches that I don’t need to change too much and to just keep forcing their hands.

“I’ve had a fantastic England career, playing over 60 times up to now, and I’m working extremely hard to try and earn that opportunity again.”

NEALE HARVEY

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