Joseph Oliver Launchbury (born 12 April 1991) is an English rugby union lock who plays for Premiership side Wasps. He represents England at international level and previously played for the under-18s and under-20s before making his Test debut in 2012. Launchbury plays mainly in the second row but is also comfortable as a blindside flanker. His nickname in the England set up is "Launchers".
Born in Exeter, Launchbury was educated at Christ's Hospital in West Sussex where he captained the school rugby team. He played for Horsham and also represented Barns Green before joining the Harlequins Academy age 15. After Harlequins failed to offer him a professional contract aged 18, he left the club and joined then National League 2 South side Worthing for the 2009–10 season. His performances at Worthing under Will Green, then head coach and former Wasps player, saw him recommended to his former club once again. He played in several A League matches for Wasps and, after a spell training with the Eastern Province Kings in South Africa, did enough to be given a full-time contract from July 2010.
He was named in Wasps' Academy squad for the 2010–11 season and also joined National League 1 side Rosslyn Park on loan to gain senior experience. Having played the first half of the season for the A team and out on loan, Launchbury made his Wasps' debut on 30 January 2011 in the Anglo-Welsh Cup against Harlequins as a replacement, scoring a try in a 38–13 defeat. His first Premiership appearance came the following month against Leicester Tigers and he remained a fixture in the side for the rest of the season. In May 2011 he was named the club's Young Player and Academy Player of the Season and was rewarded with a new three-year contract.
In 2011–12, his first full season with Wasps, Launchbury made 15 senior team appearances despite missing four months of the season after injuring his ankle in October. He returned to the side in February as a replacement but went into the starting XV for the next game and was ever-present as Wasps retained their Premiership status. All but one of his appearances over the season were made as a blindside flanker despite playing in the second row for most of the previous year.
He graduated from the Academy at the end of the season, moving up to the senior squad alongside several other England youth internationals.
Launchbury extended his contract in November 2012, keeping him with Wasps until 2015. He made 19 appearances during the campaign and was widely recognised for his performances, winning the November Player of the Month award and 2012–13 Premiership Young Player of the Season. He was also nominated for the Rugby Players' Association Players' Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year awards, missing out on both occasions to Wasps and England teammate Christian Wade, and was among 15 players longlisted for ERC European Player of the Year.
Ahead of the 2016/17 Aviva premiership campaign Launchbury was named captain of Wasps.
Launchbury's first international experience came as part of the England under-18 side which finished runners-up in the 2009 European Under-18 Rugby Union Championship. He moved up to the under-20s in 2011, making his debut as a replacement against Italy in the Under-20s Six Nations. Despite not being included in the original squad he was elevated to the starting line-up for the following game and earned the Man of the Match award against Ireland as England won the Grand Slam. He was selected for the Junior World Championship in June the same year and started every game as England reached the final, eventually losing 33–22 to New Zealand. He was named England Player of the Tournament by his teammates.
In 2012 he was called up to the senior squad for the tour of South Africa. He played in the uncapped game against the Barbarians at Twickenham but an injury picked up in training forced him to return home. The following month he was included in the Saxons squad and in November was called into the England training camp for the Autumn internationals as injury cover for Wasps teammate Tom Palmer. He made his Test debut days later as a replacement against Fiji and was promoted to the starting line-up against Australia. He retained his place for the match against New Zealand as England recorded their first win over the All Blacks since 2003. After impressing in all four Autumn Tests, Launchbury was voted Man of the Series.
He started in all five of England's Six Nations matches as they finished runners-up to Wales and was named England Player of the Year for 2012–13 in his first season as a senior international. Several commentators backed him for a place in the British and Irish Lions squad for the 2013 tour to Australia but he was not selected. Instead he travelled with England for the tour of Argentina, starting both Tests in a 2–0 series win.
He retained his starting place for the 2013 Autumn internationals as England beat first Australia and then Argentina, a game in which he scored his first international try, grounding the ball after a rolling maul. A second try followed against the All Blacks, although he was forced off after 46 minutes with a shoulder injury. England were unable to repeat the previous year's win, losing 30–22. Launchbury was ever-present during the 2014 Six Nations, starting all five games including the match against Ireland in which he made 15 tackles and won three turnovers. His partnership in the second row with Courtney Lawes, which began during the Autumn internationals, was praised throughout the tournament as England finished runners-up for the second year in a row.
Launchbury was among an initial group of 30 players selected for the three Test summer tour to New Zealand. He started the first two games, in which England were defeated narrowly, but was less influential at the breakdown than earlier in the season and missed several restarts, leading England head coach Stuart Lancaster to concede that he looked tired. He was dropped for the third Test but was restored to the starting line-up after Geoff Parling failed to overcome an injury sustained in the second game. England lost the game 36–13, their heaviest defeat of the tour, as New Zealand took the series 3–0.
Launchbury was named Man of the Match in two consecutive Six Nations games: against Wales and Italy. Launchbury was not selected to be a member of the British an Irish Lions Touring party to New Zealand, which was a controversial call following his success in the Six Nations. Many Rugby experts were left confused by Launchbury's shock omission from the Squad.
- As of 7 July 2019
|1||Argentina||London, England||Twickenham Stadium||2013 Autumn Internationals||9 November 2013||Win||31 – 12|
|2||New Zealand||London, England||Twickenham Stadium||2013 Autumn Internationals||16 November 2013||Loss||22 – 30|
|3||Fiji||London, England||Twickenham Stadium||2016 Autumn Internationals||19 November 2016||Win||58 – 15|
|5||Scotland||London, England||Twickenham Stadium||2019 Six Nations||16 March 2019||Draw||38 – 38|
- London Wasps
- Academy Player of the Year: 2010–11
- Young Player of the Year: 2010–11
- Premiership Player of the Month: November 2012
- Premiership Young Player of the Season: 2012–13
- Six Nations Under 20s Championship: 2011 Grand Slam winners
- IRB Junior World Championship: 2011 (runners-up)
- IRB Junior World Championship: 2011 England Player of the Tournament
- Autumn internationals: 2012 England Man of the Series
- England Player of the Year: 2012–13