The last 12 months has seen the flourishing of what was always a promising career but across the Premiership and the International arena, recent times have seen Courtney Lawes making his mark.
The 28 year old from Hackney in London was known as the first of the more athletic second rows. The first of the real hybrid five and a halves who were able to switch effortlessly between the engine room and the back row. In truth, this comes with its propensity to create questions; is he a lock or a blind-side? He is neither and, he is both.
Packing Down And All Round Threat
In truth, Lawes has even been switching between roles within the same game in recent times. Along with his spiritual successor – Maro Itoje – the pair have started the same game for England at four and six respectively carrying out their duties in the loose and at lineout time. Yet when scrum time arrives, Lawes switches to the flank and Itoje takes his place behind Marler, Hartley & Cole.
Moreover, it is the arrival of Itoje that I think has really spurred the increasing redevelopment of Lawes’ game as a more all round threat. The Northampton favourite has always been known for his huge hits and for visiting fly-halves to Franklin’s Gardens, it is always a nervy 80 minutes. One waiting for that inevitable moment when Lawes measures them up, for a perfectly timed impact to the ribs.
Consummate Lineout Operator
Equally, his natural athleticism has meant he is the consummate lineout operator with a huge wingspan and that threat is the same whether operating at lock or blind-side. His lineout calling has been a crucial part of his game in recent times – a key element that prevented his England colleague Joe Launchbury from joining him when the Lions squad was announced for New Zealand.
Now though, under Eddie Jones’ tutelage, he has really become a threat as a ball-carrier. He is making more and more runs, which supplement the work the men in the back row have to do. And he has a tremendous engine, often playing for the full 80 mins.
Defensive Work In Tight Channels
In addition, Lawes is getting through more defensive work in the ‘tight channels’. Protecting that area around the ruck, not just looking for the big hit in the ten channel (those still occur). You get the impression the England Head Coach is quietly smiling to himself every time he sees his man play, whether for England, or the Saints.
Northampton travel to the Madjeski Stadium tomorrow – with the Londoner as captain once again. They go to take on Premiership returnees London Irish, and it will not be a game the East-Midlanders can take lightly.
However, after a woeful performance against Saracens on the opening day of the season, Lawes has been central to a complete turnaround by the former champions. They have gone from a lot of people’s candidates to struggle this season to potential play-off participants come the business end of this term.
What is for sure is that we can expect to see the influence that this British & Irish Lion will bring to bear on the Saints’ campaign in 2017/18. It will see Courtney Lawes making his mark, for glory of Northern rugby, and Director of Rugby Jim Malinder will hope that he remains injury-free, to help lead them in their charge for an Aviva Premiership playoff place.
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