JOE LAUNCHBURY insists England will continue to drag opponents into ‘‘dark places’’ as they head into the final rounds of a nail-biting RBS 6 Nations.
Launchbury’s remarkable display of endurance in Saturday’s 13-10 victory over Ireland was among the highlights of a potentially defining performance under head coach Stuart Lancaster.
When the final whistle sounded after 80 compelling minutes, the spent Wasps lock could only place hands on knees and bury his head in the chest of team-mate Henry Thomas.
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Launchbury’s tank-emptying shift typified the commitment of an England pack that he declares will run themselves into the ground to break their opponents.
‘‘The key is that in every international you try to get yourself into that place of exhaustion. That’s what enables us to win games,’’ Launcbury said.
‘‘We pride ourselves on being a pack who can play this all-court game and can run around and take teams to dark places.
‘‘That’s what we tried to do against Ireland and obviously it’s hard work on ourselves, but hopefully you see the impact it makes on the opposition as well.’’ Launchbury was a repeated thorn in Ireland’s side at the breakdown and made 15 tackles, the second highest in both teams and only one behind Chris Robshaw.
It was the closing moments that produced his finest achievement, clipping the ankle of Dave Kearney with an outstretched arm as the Ireland wing threatened a repeat of the late agony endured against France three weeks ago.
‘‘Not at all was I sure I was going to make it. I was probably a bit out of position,’’ said Launchbury, who was switched to blindside flanker in the 70th minute to accommodate replacement lock Dave Attwood.
‘‘I’ve tried to chase down wingers in the past but I’m pretty sure that’s the first tap-tackle I’ve ever tried.
‘‘My head was down on the turf, face down. I think that’s the first time I’ve ever managed to get the guy down.’’ Ireland’s defeat has set up a four-way shootout for the Six Nations title with only Scotland and Italy out of contention heading into the final two rounds.
Next up for England is Wales at Twickenham on March 9.