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Launchbury is forced to sit on the sidelines

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England second row Joe Launchbury is set to miss the RBS Six Nations campaign as he faces up to four months out of action following neck surgery.

Launchbury was ruled out of last month’s autumn series at Twickenham because of a recurring nerve problem in his neck and at the time was told he would need six to eight weeks of rest to recover.

However, after consultations with specialists the 23-year-old will undergo surgery today before beginning a longer rehabilitation process.

The 6ft 6ins lock had become a key figure in Stuart Lancaster’s England XV, starting every game during last season’s Six Nations championship and the three summer Tests against New Zealand in a run of 19 consecutive starting appearances, on his way to reaching a current haul of 22 caps.

His club Wasps announced in a statement yesterday: “The club today confirmed that second row Joe Launchbury will undergo surgery to decompress a nerve in his neck.

“Launchbury hasn’t played since the beginning of November due to a bulging disc. He will undergo a routine decompression of the nerve this Friday and is expected to be out of hospital on Saturday. A rehabilitation period of approximately three to four months is anticipated.”

Wasps director of rugby Dai Young said: “As you would expect, this is a frustrating time for Joe.

“But the most important thing in all of this isn’t rugby, it’s Joe’s long-term health. We have consulted specialists in this field and they have recommended surgery as the best option to get him back to full fitness for the long term.

“Joe is in good hands, being looked after by one of the world’s leading surgeons and he will have the full support of the Wasps and England medical teams during his rehabilitation period.”

Plans for a proposed new, purpose-built venue for Ireland’s rugby World Cup bid in 2023 have been quashed.

Planning permission for the 38,000-seater stadium has been overturned after residents in west Belfast objected.