Six Nations: England lock Joe Launchbury relieved to be able to focus on France clash after

Launchbury spent time last week fearing for the safety of Sam Woodhead, the British teenager who went missing in the Australian outback

England lock Joe Launchbury is relieved to have his mind fully back on rugby matters ahead of France's arrival at Twickenham for Saturday's RBS 6 Nations showdown.

Launchbury spent time last week fearing for the safety of Sam Woodhead, the British teenager who went missing in the Australian outback for three days.

Woodhead was eventually found on Friday "within hours of death", a relief to his sister, Emma, who is a friend of Launchbury's from his days at Christ's Hospital School in Horsham.

"It was a very big worry for them but luckily he was safe so it ended up well," Launchbury said.

"It was a relief to hear he was alright."

Launchbury's focus is now on Saturday's clash with France, who have recorded their worst start to a championship campaign in 31 years with the defeats by Italy and Wales.

England, conversely, launched their Six Nations with victories over Scotland at home and Ireland in a Dublin arm-wrestle two weekends ago.

The French may be an unpredictable entity but whatever else they do this weekend, the forward battle will be monumental.

And Launchbury is relishing the prospect of his first Anglo-French Test as England look to take a step closer to their Grand Slam dream.

"The rivalry between the two nations is quite an important and special one," Launchbury said.

"It is exciting for me to play a part in that and I'm looking forward to the weekend, for all that comes with the game, off the pitch as well as on it.

"The Ireland game was a real physical challenge and a hard game. International rugby is like that and I'm getting used to it now, but it is tough. I really enjoyed it.

"You know what to expect from the French - a nice physical challenge up front. They pride themselves on their scrum and lineout, and their backs can score tries from anywhere."

Launchbury has risen rapidly through the ranks at Wasps, where he found the influence of former France flanker Serge Betsen invaluable, and has replicated that with England.

"Betsen is one of the nicest guys in world rugby and he was great to me in my first year, he really helped me out and gave me my first steps in rugby."

After making his debut off the bench against Fiji in November, Launchbury was named England's player of the QBE autumn campaign.

He is keeping Courtney Lawes out of the England second row and is already being talked up as a potential British and Irish Lion.

"At every club and every team across the country, and especially at international level, you are constantly looking over your shoulder at your team-mates," he said.

"As a new guy coming in, it is important to not just play well at the weekend but also train well during the week."

Head coach Stuart Lancaster will confirm his starting line-up to play France this morning, with three changes expected from the 12-6 win against Ireland.

Manu Tuilagi is set to return to the midfield in place of Billy Twelvetrees with Dylan Hartley to start at hooker and Lawes in his less familiar role at blindside flanker.

PA

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