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England 54-12 Fiji, November 10
Launchbury rise continues with England debut
Tom Hamilton
November 10, 2012
England's Joe Launchbury takes the ball forward, England v Fiji, Twickenham Stadium, London, England, November 10, 2012
Joe Launchbury takes the ball forward against Fiji © Getty Images
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Players/Officials: Stuart Lancaster | Joe Launchbury
Tournaments/Tours: Aviva Premiership

England debutant Joe Launchbury said it was a "massive honour" to earn his first cap and laid praise at the door of Stuart Lancaster for his words of wisdom in the week leading up to the Fiji match.

Launchbury came on for Wasps team-mate Tom Palmer in the 50th minute of the match and while the game was already won from an England point of view, the opportunity allowed the 21-year-old to become accustomed to playing in front of a sold-out Twickenham crowd. England ran away 52-12 victors with Alex Goode named Man of the Match and while it was uninspiring at times, it will have be a match that Launchbury will never forget.

"It's obviously a massive honour and I've been wanting to do it for many years since I was kid so to win the first cap was fantastic and it was a great day," Launchbury told ESPN. "It was a fantastic atmosphere today and singing the anthems was special. Luckily I was on the bench so I had a chance to soak it all in and get my head on and get focused."

The lock was one of three debutants on the day with hooker Tom Youngs and prop Mako Vunipola also both earning their first caps. Launchbury knows Vunipola well having played Under-20 level rugby with him and the pair spent a while discussing Saturday's match during the week running up to the Test. Launchbury said: "We talked a lot about it - we knew it was a big day but we kept each other calm and it put us in good stead."

But while talking to team-mates helped, it was Lancaster's words that hit home the most for Launchbury. "The best advice in the week was from Stuart, he said 'treat it like any other game and forget everything else around it'. Obviously it was a big day for myself but I had to try and forget everything else and just think of it as a game of rugby."

Today's game marked an incredible rise in Launchbury's stock. He only made his Aviva Premiership debut in February 2011 but the experience of battling for Wasps' top-flight survival last season, where he played in all eight of the final games of their campaign, has helped him to mature quicker than most for a man of his tender years.

And it was another experience from three summers ago, he revealed, that also played a key part in his transition to the international Test stage. While World Cup-winning captain and second-row Martin Johnson embraced a spell in New Zealand in his youth, Launchbury was dispatched to the hard grounds of South Africa - an exercise that has paid dividends.

"I went three summers ago, Wasps sent me out there," Launchbury said. "I ended up playing for the Eastern Province and it toughened me up a lot and helped me prepare for games such as today. I went out there an 18-year-old boy and I'd like to think that I came back more as a man."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Tom Hamilton is the Assistant Editor of ESPNscrum.

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