England ready for huge Springbok pack
By Julian Guyer
16:40 AEST Fri Nov 23 2012

England rugby coach Stuart Lancaster has told his side they must win the "breakdown battle" if they are to overcome South Africa at Twickenham on Saturday.

The hosts were well-beaten on that front during last weekend's 20-14 loss to Australia, with Wallaby openside flanker Michael Hooper dominating the breakdown and Australia on top in the scrum.

England have yet to beat one of the major southern hemisphere powers under Lancaster, losing the first two and drawing the third of three Tests in South Africa in June before the defeat by the Wallabies.

Victory over the Springboks would be a huge boost to England's morale ahead of the December 1 visit of world champions New Zealand to Twickenham.

The 2015 World Cup hosts are currently fifth in the International Rugby Board rankings and a failure to win on Saturday could scupper their hopes of a top four seeding at next month's draw for the global showpiece.

For all the doubts that remain about England's lack of creativity behind the scrum, they must impose themselves up front against the often ferociously physical Springboks if they are to give their backs the minimum requirement for attacking play of quick ball.

To that end, Lancaster has decided to give Wasps lock Joe Launchbury a first Test start in what he hopes will be a beefed-up pack also featuring the recalled Ben Morgan, Tom Wood and Alex Corbisiero.

Lancaster is looking to Launchbury to replicate the role of South Africa's 21-year-old lock Eben Etzebeth, singled out as a key man by Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer this week.

"You see what he's delivered off the bench against Fiji and Australia, his ability to deal with the international rugby. There's no reason why he shouldn't be an England player for a long time," Lancaster said.

South Africa though believe they have a back-row diamond in Francois Louw, the flanker who plays his club rugby for English Premiership side Bath.

Louw was man-of-the-match in last week's 21-10 win over Scotland, having previously impressed during the England series.

"Louw has been awesome," said Meyer, who knows English rugby well from his time in charge of Leicester.

England (15-1)

Alex Goode; Chris Ashton, Manu Tuilagi, Brad Barritt, Mike Brown; Toby Flood, Ben Youngs; Ben Morgan, Chris Robshaw (capt), Tom Wood; Geoff Parling, Joe Launchbury; Dan Cole, Tom Youngs, Alex Corbisiero

Replacements: David Paice, David Wilson, Mako Vunipola, Mouritz Botha, James Haskell, Danny Care, Owen Farrell, Jonathan Joseph

South Africa (15-1)

Zane Kirchner; JP Pietersen, Juan de Jongh, Jean de Villiers (capt), Francois Hougaard; Pat Lambie, Ruan Pienaar; Duane Vermeulen, Willem Alberts, Francois Louw; Juandre Kruger, Eben Etzebeth; Jannie du Plessis, Adriaan Strauss, Gurthro Steenkamp

Replacements: Schalk Brits, Heinke van der Merwe, Pat Cilliers, Flip van der Merwe, Marcell Coetzee, Elton Jantjes, Jaco Taute, Lwazi Mvovo

Referee: Nigel Owens (WAL)

AFP gjw/rf

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