Courtney Lawes has lots to learn without losing his bite
Lock will keep big hits coming but is trying to add variety to toughness
Sunday 02 June 2013
The players of the Consur XV should beware making Courtney Lawes angry.
The tough-tackling lock has vowed to carry on flattening opponents despite the row over his tackle on Toby Flood during the Aviva Premiership final. And his Northampton side lost to Leicester, which means that the forward is still simmering.
"If I feel angry I try to hurt someone," Lawes said as England prepared for this evening's opening match on their tour to Uruguay and Argentina.
But the 24-year-old is keen to avoid being typecast as a hard man whose only influence comes through hitting opponents hard.
He was back to his destructive best for Northampton towards the end of the season after two frustrating campaigns disrupted by injury. But Geoff Parling and Joe Launchbury have moved ahead of him in the England pecking order, which is why he wants to add more to his game, particularly in his line-out play.
"I am going to keep hitting and hopefully keep carrying the ball as well but I am going to add as many strings to my bow as I can," Lawes said. "I have started very lightly to call line-outs. I am 24 now, a little bit older, so I feel I can add things to my game.
"I feel I have got a lot to give and I've got a lot of potential. I pretty much had my career put back a year and a half so I am excited about what I can do.
"It has been a really frustrating couple of years, especially when you have been touted as such a good player at one point. People are expecting stuff from you and the response is: 'He is not firing'.
"I don't think I was necessarily written off but people could see I wasn't doing the things I used to be able to. I had not played enough rugby to see whether I could influence a game. That has been coming back and I am feeling good again."
Kearnan Myall will take charge of the line-out against the Consur XV – a team made up of players from Argentina, Uruguay, Chile and Brazil – but Lawes will be ready to take over at any stage. With Launchbury certain to start against Argentina in Salta on Saturday, and Parling on British and Irish Lions duty, Lawes is battling with Dave Attwood for a place in the Test side.
"Courtney is very hungry to get his place back in the team," Stuart Lancaster, the England coach, said. "He has watched Joe Launchbury come in and take his opportunity. Both he and Joe are exceptional young second-rows. There is nothing to say we couldn't play them both together."
Attwood has also started running the line-out and he enjoyed a stellar season for Bath, while Lawes shone as Northampton beat Saracens to reach the Premiership final and then again against Leicester.
"Everyone has a different skill set and Courtney has this desire to hurt people, which is brilliant. It is good to see," Paul Gustard, England's interim defence coach, said.
Not that Lawes's speciality is always that popular. Leicester's director of rugby, Richard Cockerill, was furious that Lawes was not at least sent to the sin-bin for his tackle on Flood at Twickenham but the player himself fails to understand all the fuss.
"Toby had passed the ball but his job was to come into the line and commit someone and he did," Lawes said. "If he dummies and goes and I haven't committed to the tackle then he is through the line. I just put in hits where I can."
Northampton's spirited efforts were undone by the dismissal of their captain, Dylan Hartley, for swearing at referee Wayne Barnes. Lawes is reluctant to criticise Hartley, although he does think that rugby has a responsibility to uphold standards of respect for officials.
"Whatever was said or heard it has cost him," he said. "Frustration comes in if things aren't going your way. It is easy for me because I am not the skipper. I haven't got to deal with all the lads, deal with the referee and deal with the opposition at the same time."
He sticks to dealing with opponents in the only way he knows, and if he gets angry someone is going to feel it.
England XV (v Consur XV, Montevideo, 7.30pm BST): B Foden (Northampton); J May (Gloucester), L Burrell (Northampton), K Eastmond (Bath), D Strettle (Saracens); S Myler (Northampton), R Wigglesworth (Saracens), J Marler (Harlequins), D Paice (London Irish), H Thomas (Sale), C Lawes (Northampton), K Myall (unattached), T Wood (Northampton, capt), T Johnson (Exeter), B Vunipola (Wasps). Replacements R Buchanon (Harlequins), A Corbisiero (London Irish), P Doran-Jones (Northampton), D Attwood (Bath), M Kvesic (Worcester), L Dickson (Northampton), F Burns (Gloucester), J Joseph (London Irish).
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