Courtney Lawes to retire from England duty after World Cup: ‘It’s time’

The forward is England’s fifth most-capped male player of all-time

Harry Latham-Coyle
in Paris
Monday 23 October 2023 07:01 BST
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England's World Cup semi-final defeat to South Africa 'hurts' but team will come back 'stronger', says Borthwick

England forward Courtney Lawes will retire from international rugby at the end of the Rugby World Cup.

The 34-year-old won a 105th cap for his country in the semi-final defeat to South Africa at the Stade de France, confirming afterwards that this tournament would be his last involvement at Test level.

Lawes could feature for a final time in an England shirt in Friday’s third-place play-off against Argentina.

“I think it’s time,” said Lawes, England’s fifth most-capped male player, suggesting that he had a desire to spend more time with his children. “I’ve done four World Cups, so I’m pretty happy with that.

“The kids are at that age where they need their dad around. It will be good to be with them more, to provide some well needed structure to the mob.

“It’s a bit of an end of an era, but it’s been a real honour for me to represent England for so long.I’m proud of the journey I’ve been on. It’s not always been the ups. Plenty of downs in there, but I’ve pushed through.

“I’m not an emotional person really, but it’s just been a huge honour for me, to be honest. To be able to finish with this group is something I’ll treasure forever.”

Courtney Lawes will retire from England duty at the end of the tournament in France

A one-club man, Lawes is contracted at Northampton Saints for another season and intends to play on domestically.

He made his England debut in November 2009, coming on to partner now head coach Steve Borthwick in the second row in a defeat to Australia, and went on to win three Six Nations championships across his career.

Having played most of his career at lock, including starting the 2019 World Cup final at lock, the always-versatile Lawes has been stationed on the blindside for most of the last four years.

A series of impressive performances earned Lawes selection for a second British & Irish Lions tour in South Africa in 2021, and the forward captained his country for the first time against Tonga later that year.

He began this World Cup as England’s skipper while Owen Farrell served his suspension, leading the side to two victories and scoring only his second Test try in the win over Japan.

“I have so many [great memories],” Lawes stressed. “I think, as hard as it is being away from your family and stuff like that, you almost have another family. You really feel like that, especially when you’re away in camps like World Cup camps.

Courtney Lawes scored only his second England try against Japan in Nice

“It’s five months of staying with your brothers. I’ll definitely miss the boys, the banter and all the suff we get up to when we’re not training.

“From the last World Cup to this one, with the group of lads we’ve had coming through, I’ve really enjoyed being part of the group. You can see what it really means for us to play for each other.

“When you come up against teams like South Africa, where everyone thinks you’re going to get slaughtered, and you find another level for each other. So I’ll miss this group of boys specifically.

“We’ve had a lot of good times with these lads. I’ll definitely miss pulling the jersey on and giving it everything.”

England will face Argentina in a battle for third place at the Stade de France on Friday night in their final match of the World Cup.

Borthwick has suggested that he is fully intent on winning the game, opening the door for a farewell appearance for Lawes even at the end of a long campaign.

Steve Borthwick has hailed Courtney Lawes’s intelligence and work-rate

The England head coach hailed his vice-captain’s qualities nearly a decade and a half after welcoming him into the Test fold as a player.

Borthwick said: “We could talk about his trademark Courtney Lawes low tackles that cut the attackers down in their path, [but] what I see in Courtney is somebody who covers the ground.

“In crucial moments, he finds himself in the right place at the right time just so often. That’s a real sign of the intelligence of the player, a sign of the understanding of the player.

“That’s what he continues to do. [He has] more than 100 caps now, and you can see how hungry he is to help the team by the way he runs.”

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