Court­ney: Bit more to come but I’ll get there!

The Rugby Paper - - News - By NEALE HAR­VEY

FRUS­TRATED Eng­land en­forcer Court­ney Lawes can­didly ad­mits his form is not yet where it needs to be go­ing into a huge World Cup year.

Lawes, 29, has been a cru­cial cog in Eng­land’s se­cond row for al­most a decade, rack­ing up 68 caps since mak­ing his de­but against Aus­tralia in 2009.

How­ever, a back in­jury threat­ened his par­tic­i­pa­tion in the re­cent Novem­ber se­ries be­fore he re­cov­ered in time to face New Zealand, Ja­pan and Aus­tralia, while he has been bat­tling to help keep Northamp­ton’s sea­son afloat.

With Eng­land’s Six Na­tions squad due to be an­nounced on Thurs­day, Lawes told The Rugby

Pa­per: “It’s been a frus­trat­ing sea­son in some ways and I’ve not been in the kind of form I’d like, but you get those ups and downs some­times.

“I’ve just got to get through this now and hope­fully be a big part of the World Cup be­cause I feel I’m at my peak in terms of the ex­pe­ri­ence I bring. I’m cer­tainly a lot wiser than I used to be.

“It’s been a pretty dis­jointed sea­son with that back in­jury, but I feel I’m start­ing to re­cap­ture some de­cent form. It will be good to keep get­ting games now be­cause that’s how I’ll be at my best.”

Self-crit­i­cism notwith­stand­ing, Lawes still man­aged to play an ef­fec­tive part in the au­tumn for an Eng­land side that took New Zealand to the wire – then recorded con­vinc­ing vic­to­ries over Ja­pan and Aus­tralia to set up a Six Na­tions charge.

Eng­land be­gin their cam­paign against hot favourites Ire­land in Dublin next month and Lawes, whose three pre­vi­ous vis­its to the Ir­ish cap­i­tal have gleaned two vic­to­ries, in 2011 and 2013, and one de­feat (2017), reck­ons they are in good shape.

He said: “I thought I went pretty well in the Novem­ber se­ries con­sid­er­ing I was re­ally strug­gling with my back. I did ev­ery­thing I could against New Zealand off the bench and came through bet­ter against Ja­pan and Aus­tralia af­ter start­ing.

“It was an en­cour­ag­ing pe­riod for the team and we came pretty close to get­ting a 100 per cent se­ries, but we’ve still got a lot of grow­ing to do.

“It’s al­ways frus­trat­ing to lose a game by such a fine mar­gin, as we did 16-15 against New Zealand, but it cer­tainly gives you con­fi­dence that we’re go­ing to be bet­ter next time we play them.

“First, we’ve got Ire­land in the Six Na­tions, though, and you never take any­thing for granted. I’ve won there twice, but I’ve got an­other cou­ple of games to get through for Saints be­fore I can even think of that – and I’ve got to be picked!”

Lawes set­tled any doubts over his Northamp­ton fu­ture late last year by sign­ing a new con­tract un­til 2021.

How­ever, de­spite his long af­fil­i­a­tion with the club, fa­ther of four Lawes re­veals the de­ci­sion was not cut and dried in the face of po­ten­tial op­por­tu­ni­ties else­where and says he could still move abroad later in his ca­reer: “You’ve got to keep your op­tions open and even though this is my home town, it was a busi­ness de­ci­sion at the end of the day. We were pre­pared to not to stay if we had to, but luck­ily it worked out in the end.

“We could make it work any­where, I’m pretty sure of that, but I love the ground here, love the Saints and I like play­ing here. It’s very fa­mil­iar and ob­vi­ously I wanted to stay, so I’m glad I got the op­por­tu­nity to do so in the end.

“Mov­ing else­where or abroad is a pos­si­bil­ity one day, but I’ve got an­other two years here now.”

As a se­nior Saint with over 200 games, Lawes sees nur­tur­ing the new gen­er­a­tion be­ing blooded by rugby di­rec­tor Chris Boyd as one of his key ob­jec­tives.

He added: “We’ve got some great young play­ers com­ing through, es­pe­cially guys like Fraser Ding­wall who’s hav­ing an im­pres­sive sea­son.

“The academy seems a lot more switched on than it has in pre­vi­ous sea­sons.

“I had plenty of help as a 19-year-old break­ing into the Saints team so you just want to be a good role model and show them what works and what doesn’t.”

Lawes added: “There have been some per­for­mances this sea­son that we haven’t been proud of, but if you look at our re­cent wins over Worces­ter and Ex­eter, it’s about main­tain­ing that in­ten­sity.”

PIC­TURE: Getty Im­ages

Bat­tle wagon: Court­ney Lawes is on the road to full ef­fec­tive­ness

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