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England will be without superb second row Launchbury against Ireland

The injury puts 21-year-old Maro Itoje in line for his first Test start.

Image: PA Wire/Press Association Images

A HAMSTRING INJURY has ruled one of England’s most important players out of Saturday’s Six Nations meeting with Ireland at Twickenham.

Joe Launchbury was named in Eddie Jones’ 23-man matchday squad yesterday, but has today been replaced in the group by Northampton’s Courtney Lawes.

Most logic would look to Maro Itoje, the third lock in the original squad, as the natural starter alongside his Saracens team-mate George Kruis.

However, Jones might just consider the 21-year-old a touch too raw to hand him a first start opposite the experience of Devin Toner and Donnacha Ryan.

Speaking about the engine room options this week, forwards coach Steve Borthwick was giving very little away about the direction he and Jones were leaning.

“I think it’s a competitive position right now, and that’s a good thing,” said Borthwick.

We’ve got a mixture of players there with different levels of experience. That’s a really good thing for the squad to make that a competitive area. With that it spurs the intensity of training.”

“(Ireland) do have some injuries, but they also have good depth. Devin Toner is very experienced, and a very good operator at this level, so he’s a threat for us.

“So we need to perform really well, it doesn’t matter who they select, they will have a really good pack.

“We’ve got to really concentrate hard on our preparation, which we have done, because we know we have to play well this week.”

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Sean Farrell

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