Itoje set for England Six Nations start

Saracens back-rower Maro Itoje looks set to make his first England start after Joe Launchbury was ruled out of this weekend’s Six Nations rugby match against Ireland.

Launchbury had pulled up in training with a sore hamstring but England had expected the Wasps lock to make Ireland’s visit to Twickenham on Saturday.

But the 24-year-old was ruled out on Wednesday evening with Northampton Saints lock Courtney Lawes called up to replace him.

Given that Itoje was preferred to Lawes in Eddie Jones’ initial 23-man squad, it now seems likely that the 21-year-old will partner Saracens teammate George Kruis in the England boiler house against Ireland.

“I think it’s a competitive position right now, and that’s a good thing,” assistant coach Steve Borthwick said of England’s second-row area before Launchbury was forced to drop out of the squad.

“Eddie will finalise the selections for the squad and team that we think can win the game this weekend.”

Lawes has been handed a reprieve after starting the last game, the 40-9 victory over Italy at the Stadio Olimpico.

Launchbury started in England’s opening Six Nations match, the 15-9 victory over Scotland at Murrayfield, but was on the bench in Rome 10 days ago.

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