England have the resources to ride out a raft of injuries to key players ahead of this month’s Tests against the might of the southern hemisphere, according to coach Stuart Lancaster.
In the latests blow for Lancaster, lock Joe Launchbury has been ruled out of all four internationals at Twickenham, including Saturday’s opener against New Zealand and on November 29 against the Wallabies, because of a neck problem.
His absence follows that of Geoff Parling, Alex Corbisiero, Mako Vunipola, Tom Youngs, Dan Cole, Ed Slater, Tom Croft and Manu Tuilagi, all also ruled out of the entire series.
Dave Attwood of Bath is set to start in Launchbury’s place – Lancaster described his form for Bath this season as “exceptional” – as England attempt to end a four-match losing sequence against the All Blacks.
“We’re in a better position now than we were in the last Test against New Zealand in November,” Lancaster said on Monday.
“The players who are here have trained very well. They had a great week last week.
“They’ll have another good week of learning this week. We’re very confident with the players we have.
“There are a lot of players who are playing well and who will be ready on Saturday.”
Launchbury’s work rate and athleticism have seen him start England’s last 20 Tests and his loss is a savage blow to hopes of defeating New Zealand, South Africa, Samoa and Australia this autumn.
The 23-year-old requires six to eight weeks of rest and rehabilitation to heal an irritated nerve that has troubled him for over a year.
“We’re desperately disappointed to lose Joe for the series. He felt underpowered and weak so we didn’t want him to take the risk,” Lancaster said.
“We want to give him the best chance to get himself right for Wasps and the Six Nations. Once he’d seen the specialist it was an easy decision.
“He originally did it in Argentina in 2012, but then it settled down with rest.
“Over the course of the last year it has come back and then settled down again.
“It’s got to the point now where he feels it’s inhibiting his performances, so the decision is the right decision.
“Everyone is confident that with the right treatment and rest, he’ll back in six to eight weeks.”
Lancaster revealed that injury concerns over props David Wilson and Joe Marler and centre Kyle Eastmond have eased and the trio are available for selection.