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Blackett: Joe Launchbury is playing his best rugby ever and deserves Lions call

Wasps captain Joe Launchbury

Lee Blackett has tipped club captain Joe Launchbury to be part of Warren Gatland’s Lions tour of South Africa in 2021. 

Launchbury, who has 65 Test caps for England, is yet to play for the Lions, but the 6ft 6ins lock is in the form of his life and Blackett insists he is better than ever. 

He explained: “Launchers is playing his best-ever rugby and hopefully it’s not only for England come the summer. He’s pushing for a tour to South Africa. 

“He’s fitter and stronger and his collision work both sides of the ball is better than before he became one of England’s most-capped locks of all time.”

Asides from the Lions, Blackett believes a host of his Wasps players should be in consideration for England selection ahead of the Six Nations. 

One man in particular who is expected to be called up is the sensational Jack Willis. The flanker has been at the heart of most of the good at Wasps this season. 

With 44 turnovers won in the Premiership, he is an unbelievable 25 ahead of his nearest competitor – Blair Cowan – while he is Wasps’ top try-scorer across all competitions this season with 13. 

Blackett said: “Jack has been outstanding so I imagine he’ll be in there. His work both sides of the ball has been incredible and he just keeps on knocking up man-of-the-match performances so he’s impossible to ignore. 

“But he’s not the only one. Dan Robson has been a key figure in terms of leadership and he’s been in top form. Jacob Umaga has had an incredible season and keeps getting better, while Zach Kibirige has been electric and terrorised defences.”

Like many clubs this season, Wasps have provided opportunities for young players post-lockdown and some have really stepped up. 

And Blackett admitted while his main focus is the club, he and his staff want to help their players reach the very top of the game and he believes there will be another crop of players pulling on the Red Rose in the not-too-distant future. 

“Youngsters Tom Willis, Gabriel Oghre and Alfie Barbeary are really coming on leaps and bounds,” said Blackett. “A big part of what we do is developing people, whether that’s staff or players, and I’d be gutted if we don’t get people in the England squad. 

“Our main aim is the club but it’s also about getting people into international squads. Players will always have that as a massive goal and if we can help achieve that, it’d be great. 

“We should have a few players in that Six Nations squad soon and hopefully some younger lads, who, if they aren’t this time, will be in the set-up in the next couple years.” 

TOM VALE

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