England head coach Eddie Jones has been handed a fresh new injury scare to his second-row stocks with senior squad member Joe Launchbury ruled out of training today with a calf issue.
The 27-year-old was one of the few shining lights in England's abysmal Six Nations campaign earlier this season, going above and beyond in his role as a carrier in a pack stripped of both Billy Vunipola and Nathan Hughes. Against a motivated, physical Springbok pack resurgent under new Head Coach Rassie Erasmus, Launchbury's work in the tight and at the maul will likely prove pivotal in England's success or failure.
England's high attrition rate has already seen them left without Courtney Lawes, George Kruis and Charlie Ewels in the second row for the tour to South Africa. Jones will be forced to rely on 20-year-old Saracens lock Nick Isiekwe and 21-year-old uncapped Chiefs second row Jonny Hill should Launchbury fail to recover in time for this weekend's Test in Johannesburg.
The Wasps captain was resigned to individual training today, forced to work on stretching work. England and Exeter number eight Sam Simmonds also trained on his own for a portion of the session before linking up with the full squad.
Launchbury is expected to be named in England's starting side this week if fit. While Isiekwe and Hill have proved themselves to be more than capable at the highest levels of club rugby, the loss of Launchbury's experience could spell disaster for a struggling England side.