Lawes can make England impact insists Saints director

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Northampton director of rugby Jim Mallinder has backed second row Courtney Lawes to make a big impact for England against Australia on Saturday - provided he is given an opportunity off the bench.

Lawes will win his first cap should he get the chance to face the Wallabies at Twickenham on Saturday, after being beaten to a place in the starting line-up by Leicester's Louis Deacon.

The 20-year-old lock has been one of the sensations of the new season and gave an outstanding performance against the Irish second-row pairing of Donncha O'Callaghan and Lions captain Paul O'Connell in Northampton's 31-27 victory over Munster in the Heineken Cup in October.

At 6ft 7in and 18st Lawes, who has made just 20 starts for Northampton's first XV, has all the physical attributes needed in the modern game but also possesses excellent mobility for a man of his size, allowing him to make eye-catching hits and carries around the park.

Mallinder, speaking after his side's 19-17 win at Ospreys in the LV= Cup last night, said: "I hope Courtney gets an opportunity because we at Northampton know what he can do.

"He doesn't seem to be fazed by anything, big games seem to inspire him and bring the best out of him. I am really looking forward to, and anticipating, a really good performance from Courtney.

"The coverage he has been getting has not surprised me because he has been improving and at the end of last season he was getting better and better and putting in some big performances.

"He has continued that form this season. It hasn't been a surprise and we hope he goes well."

Mallinder, however, refused to comment on England boss Johnson's decision to release Ben Foden from his squad for this weekend's opening autumn international.

Full-back Foden created Northampton's only try of the night in Swansea as a superb outside break saw him feed lock James Cannon to score.

"I thought it was a great break by Ben for the try and we finished it well," he said.

"It was good for us that he could come back and join us, but Martin Johnson picks his side and picks his bench."

Mallinder explained that Saints wing Chris Ashton, who has also enjoyed an excellent start to the season, had trained with the England set-up due to an injury to Harlequins' flyer David Strettle.

"He has been with England. It has given him confidence and shows that people are watching him and seeing how he has improved," Mallinder said.

"His knowledge of the game and contact skills have improved since he moved from rugby league and we have always known he is a great finisher."