Loss of Read a boost for makeshift England side
England lock Joe Launchbury feels the loss of Kieran Read for the All Blacks shouldn't be under-estimated heading into Saturday's test series opener in Auckland.
Read has been withdrawn with continuing head problems as the New Zealand management take no risks with their star back rower.
Read has England's sympathy but clearly the under-strength touring side are eager to gain any advantage they can against the world champions.
And the absence of a world best like Read represents just that.
"Obviously the standard of player who is going to come in and fill his shoes, whether it's Jerome Kaino or somebody else, they are obviously world class players in their own right. But Kieran Read has had a fantastic year and was named world player of the year for all the right reasons," Launchbury said.
Launchbury knows all about Read and the All Blacks. He earned a win against them in London in 2012 and scored a try against them in last year's rematch at Twickenham where the All Blacks gained revenge.
To be 1-1 against New Zealand is a decent record for any northern hemisphere player and Launchbury is keen to improve on that, even in these demanding circumstances.
The 23-year-old Launchbury is looking to be a stronghold of this makeshift first test side, a good chance to hold his position as the tour unfolds.
The Wasps second-rower has started the last 16 tests and is very much in the engine room of the supposed revolution that new coach Stuart Lancaster is orchestrating.
"That win over the All Blacks ranks as a real career highlight," Launchbury said, admitting the English forwards were trying to emulate some of the All Blacks' aggression and attacking methods.
"New Zealand have a very dynamic pack and that's the way we like to play as well.
"I think our attacking game has really come on and hopefully that will continue."
He believed the English side had gained real momentum in the Six Nations - where they lost out on the title to Ireland on points difference - and the goal was to take that further on this trip.
"It's the ultimate challenge to come here and play three tests against New Zealand."
Launchbury was also happy to acknowledge the role former Waikato coach Tony Hanks had played in launching his career at London Wasps while he coached there.
Hanks had scouted Launchbury from the semi-professional ranks in 2010 to play in the English Premiership and his rise has since been meteoric.
"I owe a lot to him," Launchbury said, and was hoping to catch up with Hanks during his time here.