How's this for a conundrum? Courtney Lawes, suspended for a fortnight after England's tight victory over Argentina on the opening weekend, is still not entirely sure what he did wrong, yet he must go out of his way to ensure it doesn't happen again if and when he takes the field against Scotland at Eden Park in the final round of pool matches. "I thought the punishment was a bit harsh, but what can you do?" he asked yesterday, a picture of purest innocence. "I'm just looking forward to making amends." Amends for what, exactly? Oh, let's not go there. Life's too short.
Lawes was banned after sliding knee-first into Mario Ledesma as the Puma hooker attempted to score a try at the corner flag – an act deemed illegal both by the citing commissioner Murray Whyte and, rather more importantly, by the judicial officer Terry Willis. The verdict ruled him out of the games against the Eastern European contingent, Georgia and Romania, but not out of this weekend's set-to with the old enemy, a match he is anticipating with great excitement. Might he possibly rein himself in, just to stay on the right side of the disciplinary classes? "Not at all," he replied, succinctly.
"It wasn't as if I tried to do anything malicious," he continued. "I've always been a physical player, but I don't go out to hurt people. I've been cited once in five years, I don't give away many penalties and I don't do stupid things. I'm not a dirty player. I just try to make big hits when I can, which is part of my game. It's not like I go around turning people on their heads." It is hard to imagine Lawes not being a part of the 22-man squad for Scotland.
Conversely, there is no obvious route on to the bench, let alone into the starting line-up, for Thomas Waldrom, the recent addition to the squad. The Leicester No 8 got down to formal World Cup business with a visit to the gym for yesterday's weights session after being named as an official replacement for Andrew Sheridan, invalided out with a busted shoulder almost a fortnight ago. He looked pleased to be involved, if a trifle discombobulated.
The subtext of the interrogation from the native New Zealanders was how a man born in Lower Hutt, just outside the capital Wellington, could conceivably reappear in the country representing England, especially as he was being talked of as a potential All Black as recently as three years ago. Waldrom, whose brother Scott wore the silver fern without ever making the Test side, presented the full face of the bat to most questions, letting the wilder ones go straight through to the keeper.
"It's a big turnaround and a little surreal, but while I learned a lot about rugby here in New Zealand, I made the decision to go to England because I wanted to learn more, and possibly have a shot at Test footy," he said. "This is a big honour, being part of the squad, and if I get the opportunity to play, I know my family will be very proud."
The folk at Leicester – not least Richard Cockerill, the director of rugby – may be just a little less chuffed, given the Midlanders' rough start to the Premiership season. Waldrom was suitably contrite at disappearing to the far side of the world just when his club needs him most. "It's pretty tough on everyone at Welford Road, losing so many players to this competition, but Richard's a man of wisdom and he wasn't going to deny anyone the chance to come here," he said. "I'm very appreciative. He didn't have to do this, but he's played at a World Cup himself and knows what it's like."Reuse content