Ben Youngs insists that only by defending with greater ferocity can England hope to contain South Africa’s irrepressible scrum-half Faf de Klerk.
De Klerk was the ringmaster at Ellis Park as the Springboks staged a stunning fightback to claim a 42-39 victory that gives them a 1-0 lead in the series ahead of Saturday’s second Test in Bloemfontein.
The Sale half-back’s running game was a constant thorn in England’s side and Youngs, who will be his opposite number once again at Free State Stadium, insists he must not be given the freedom to work his magic.
“Faf is a livewire. A lot of us know him from the Premiership and have played against him,” Youngs said. “He’s a lively, lively player. He challenges around the ruck, has good distribution and can chuck it long.
“It was frustrating that we gave him room and allowed him to basically do whatever he wanted to do on the front foot.
“For Saturday there’s a big emphasis on getting set early and making sure we’ve got the right spacing. On the back of that hopefully we can then cut down Faf’s time and space.
“He’d still be a good operator and still be able to cause us trouble, but we’ll give ourselves a damn better chance than what we were doing at Ellis Park.
“We can’t defend like we did in the first Test. We were leaving doglegs, we weren’t getting set early enough, our spacing on the ruck was really poor and if you give him that he is going to cause you trouble and he did.
“If you invite guys like that to run at you it is exactly what they want, and he showed if you do that he will pull you about. We were way too passive.
“We let him do what he wanted to do. He got the ball, got time and space and manipulated the edges brilliantly for them. We didn’t intend to defend like that.
“Everything we have trained this week is to get back to the way England defend. That wasn’t it for large periods of the game at the weekend.”
Launchbury will partner Maro Itoje in the second row when the side is announced at Thursday lunchtime, displacing Nick Isiekwe who was hauled off after just 37 minutes at Ellis Park.
The selection spotlight also falls on to the back row, where the underperforming Chris Robshaw is fighting for his place with Brad Shields his likely replacement if Jones does decide to axe the Harlequins flanker.
Tighthead prop could see a change after Kyle Sinckler failed to make an impact in the first Test, potentially opening the door to Harry Williams’ inclusion in the front row.