Joe Launchbury credits the influence of Steve Borthwick for the newly acquired line-out expertise that has placed him on the brink of his 50th England cap.
Launchbury will reach that milestone in Saturday’s NatWest 6 Nations clash with Scotland at Murrayfield after re-establishing himself as a starter under Eddie Jones having initially being limited to a replacement role.
The 26-year-old Wasps captain was always rated by Jones and his assistant Borthwick, who oversees the forwards, with one reservation.
“The area we had our concern around was his line-out jumping ability,” Jones said.
“But he has not been an outstanding line-out jumper so he has worked really hard in that area. Now that’s not an area to hold him back. He is held in very high regard by us.”
Launchbury is playing the best rugby of his career, producing the highlight to date with the stunning offload that led to Jonny May’s second second try in the 12-6 win against Wales.
“Steve Borthwick has been fantastic with me in the line-out, trying to improve and upskill me,” Launchbury said.
“He’s the first forwards coach I’ve had who has been a second row. The others have been props and they’re fantastic at what they do but that attention to me as a jumper that Steve’s brought in has been fantastic.
“I always enjoyed getting my hands on the ball, trying to offload. I did enjoy the set-piece but didn’t give it the full attention it deserved.
“I definitely haven’t been working on my offloads! It was a gamble to take with the advantage and it came off.
“I like to carry as much as I can for this team and we have a lot of licence as a tight five to get involved off nine and get the team on the front foot and I really enjoy that.”
The smoothing of Launchbury’s rough edges has propelled him to the cusp of a half century of caps, an achievement that will arrive when England’s Six Nations tile defence resumes on the back of victories over Italy and Wales.
“It’s crept up on me a bit. I never thought for one moment that I would get 50 caps. It will be a fantastic achievement and one that will make my family really proud,” Launchbury said.
“I remember the first cap very well, Mako Vunipola and I were talking about it the other night.
“We made out debuts together and have been in and around the team since then and have had some great moments in an England shirt. Hopefully there are more to come.
“I always felt like I was one of the younger players in the team until last summer’s tour to Argentina.”
England have called 29 players into their Surrey training camp in preparation for the clash with Scotland, including the 23 who were in action against Wales.