England's Launchbury banned over Fiji kick

England rugby's Launchbury banned over Fiji kick

London (AFP) - Joe Launchbury is set to miss England's final two Tests of 2016 against Argentina and Australia after being found guilty Monday of kicking Fiji's Asaeli Tikoirotuma.

The Wasps lock will now miss this weekend's clash with the Pumas and the December 3 international against the Wallabies, both at Twickenham, after his boot connected with the head of Fiji centre Tikoirotuma in the 42nd minute of England's 58-15 home victory last Saturday.

After the match, Launchbury was cited for foul play following an incident where, in just the second minute of the Twickenham match, he appeared to take aim at the ball only to hit Tikoirotuma's head.

Disciplinary officials deemed Launchbury's conduct reckless rather than deliberate at a hearing in London.

The standard 'low-end' sanction for such an offence of a four-week ban was reduced to two following the second row's admission of guilt, Launchbury's previous clean disciplinary record and good conduct at the hearing.

Launchbury, who has the right of appeal, is free to play again from December 5.

His likely absence comes at a time when he had impressed on his return to international rugby this month against both South Africa and Fiji.

Launchbury got the chance to revive his World Cup second row partnership with Courtney Lawes after both George Kruis and Maro Itoje, England's first-choice locks under Australian coach Eddie Jones, were both injured.

The effect of his ban on England in the next fortnight could be lessened by Kruis's recovery from ankle surgery which has left the Saracens star in line to start against Argentina.

"George has worked really hard on his rehab and he's done really well to get back so quickly," England forwards coach Steve Borthwick said.

"He's been around in the later stages of his rehab and it's testament to his character that he's been able to get back from his injury so quickly," added ex-England captain Borthwick, himself a former lock. "He's in contention for Argentina."

- 'Lions honour' -

Meanwhile Borthwick said it would be an "honour" and "privilege" to take the position of forwards coach on the British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand next year after being widely tipped to join Warren Gatland's backroom staff.

Jones, speaking after England's rout of Fiji, said such an appointment could work to his team's advantage ahead of their next scheduled meeting against the world champion All Blacks in 2018.

"I'm happy for all of my coaching team except me to be involved in the Lions tour," Jones said.

"If they are offered a job I will encourage them to take the job and get down there and work out how to beat New Zealand because that is one of our aims. They can help us and the Lions.

"What a great opportunity to spend six weeks in New Zealand on the Lions tour. Ten weeks of hearing 'bro' seven million times and getting to understand everything about New Zealand rugby."

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