As snubs go this was a pretty bad one. The Lions touring party has been hit by more than just stuttering performances this summer, with defeats and injuries hampering the side.
England beat Argentina…
— BBC 5 live Sport (@5liveSport) 19 June 2017
While nobody expected the four different nations of players to immediately gel together, the tour so far has proved a very inconsistent one. What hasn’t lacked consistency though is the confusing calls that coach Warren Gatland has made.
His selections have been questioned and his tactics have been met by derision particularly in New Zealand, with the coach struggling to shake off the accusation that ‘Warrenball‘ is still prevalent in his plans.
The most questioned decision though has come in the double snub of one of the leading forwards in world rugby today. England’s Joe Launchbury, a man that has been Man of the Match more often than not for England was ignored not once, but twice by Gatland for the Lions squad..
If rumours true, Cory Hill is going to be a British & Irish Lion ahead of Joe Launchbury or Jonny Gray. Let that sink in. Embarrassing
— Ricky Harries (@RickyJH85) 16 June 2017
Another faultless performance from Joe Launchbury tonight. Not quite in Cory Hill’s league, of course, but he’ll get there.
— Jamie Hosie (@jhosie43) 17 June 2017
Initially some admitted that the competition in the forwards was fierce and perhaps Gatland had his reasons for leaving the Wasps’ player out. However, when he was snubbed again because of his whereabouts with England, it has seen a major backlash.
We aren’t here to talk about Gatland’s decision though, however ridiculous it may see. Instead this is a moment that could shape the England international’s future, and he may yet thank Gatland for the snub.
With England, Launchbury has been a pillar of success this summer and over the past year and a half. England’s recent 2-0 victory over Argentina may sound fairly routine, but with so many debutants and inexperienced players donning the shirt, it was a chance for the Wasps’ forward to show his mettle in an inexperienced team, and how he did that.
With only Dylan Hartley, George Ford and Mike Brown adding experience to the side, Launchbury has led from the front. The fact England won both games against Argentina is hugely complimentary of his ability as a leader.
Jones’ current side is full of exciting talents, but they lack a real leader with so few experienced players in the squad. Launchbury was a constant on tour and received rave reviews for his performances. It seems as though his latest snub has only made him better and strengthened his resolve to improve.
For Wasps this season he has been in fine form too. The lock is not a try scoring master, only crossing the whitewash twice this season. The 26-year-old has made a fantastic captain since he was given the armband though and the Wasps are a better team for it. Although they did fall to Exeter in the Premiership final, they had been a team on a mission throughout their domestic campaign.
For England too, Launchbury has become a pillar of Eddie Jones’ England side since his inception into the role, with the lock a huge presence both on and off the pitch. For a player at such a young age to be decreed a senior player, it shows the measure of the man.
For the Wasps’ player then it will likely be a case of having to put this disappointment to one side and channelling this anger into even better performances. Often these rejections end in the player either making or breaking their career, but Launchbury seems like a player that will push on from this disappointment.
The lock will have other Lions tours and, if he keeps improving at the rate he is now, then he will be a serious contender for not just a place on the tour, but for the captaincy in 2021.