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Joe Launchbury: Former shelf-stacker is a potential Lions hero

Last Updated: 29/01/13 5:22am

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Joe Launchbury: Almost quit rugby two years ago

Joe Launchbury: Almost quit rugby two years ago

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Two years ago, England lock Joe Launchbury was stacking shelves in Sainsbury's and considering quitting rugby. He goes into the Six Nations as a potential Lion.

Released by Harlequins, Launchbury was playing for Worthing in National 2 South and ensuring Sainsbury's customers were well served - whilst considering whether to give up on the dream to become a professional rugby player and head instead to university.

England, and potentially the Lions, have Worthing coach Will Green to thank - he was so excited by what he saw in Launchbury that he tipped off Wasps coach Tony Hanks, and the rest is history.

Unusually for a lock, he has never been yellow-carded in 15-man rugby. Off the pitch he is a humble and genuinely pleasant individual. But do not be fooled, he is no southern softie.

Remember South Africa's bad boy Eben Etzebeth picking on England's Ben Youngs - a man half his size - in November? The giant paw holding the Bok back - and possibly saving Youngs' cherubic looks - is Launchbury's.

The 21-year-old is not afraid to get stuck in, but what sets him apart is his extraordinary athleticism for such a big man - he is 6'6" and 18st 2lbs.

His ability in the air, at the line-out and at re-starts, is startling and he must be one of the fastest locks on the planet too.

He made his debut off the bench against Fiji in the autumn internationals and was then a replacement in the loss to Australia. England coach Stuart Lancaster had seen enough and Launchbury started against South Africa and New Zealand and was more than a match for Etzebeth and Sam Whitlock.

If he continues on the same course, Sainsbury's' loss will surely be the Lions' gain.

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