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Courtney Lawes – I’m just going to get better and better

Courtney Lawes may have looked back to his best during the Six Nations but the Saints man has warned his would-be summer opponents that he will soon be even better.

A rejuvenated Lawes fought back from losing his place in the England team after the sensational rise of Maro Itoje and George Kruis to become one of the leaders in a pack shorn of Chris Robshaw and the Vunipola brothers.

With renewed hunger, Lawes has raised the bar on and off the pitch this season in order to fulfil the  vast potential which saw him make his England debut at the age of 20.

Now, with 58 England caps and approaching a decade in the professional game, Lawes is desperate to become the complete modern-day second row.

His exploits last month have made him a firm favourite to be named in Warren Gatland’s touring Lions party on April 19 and the 28-year-old reckons he will be even better by the time the summer arrives.

“I played well during the Six Nations but nowhere near as well as I could have,” he told The Rugby Paper. “Give me another six months and I’ll hopefully be where I want.

“I don’t know exactly what my potential is – I just want to keep improving. You only get one shot at this rugby thing so I want to make sure I find out where I can really get to.

“Honestly if I don’t get in the Lions squad it is not the end of my career. I still want to push on and see where my potential leads.

“I’ve come a long way in a year. It’s great just to be able to get back to some kind of form and stay fit for this amount of time.

“It’s the most rugby I’ve had in probably my entire career and I see all the little nuances you get out of games. It makes a big difference to repeatedly play and get better every game.

“I am being a lot more professional than I have in previous years in terms of getting a lot more physio, keeping on top of niggles and working a lot harder in the gym to protect my body as best I can. It’s been a big change for me and it’s worked.

“I was tired of being injured and not getting to the kind of potential I thought I could. I needed to make a change, especially if I wanted to stay in the mix for England. Luckily, I’ve managed to do that.”

Since his debut against Australia in November 2009, Lawes has established himself as one of the fiercest enforcers around with bone-crunching tackles regularly going viral on the internet.

But he was challenged by England coach Eddie Jones to carry the ball more in the absence of both Vunipola brothers at the start of the Six Nations and he rose to the challenge alongside Nathan Hughes and Joe Launchbury, left, averaging just under ten carries a game.

He added: “I have been working hard on my carries all season. I have made a lot of gains there for Saints and that made it a lot easier transitioning to international rugby.

“I felt I gained momentum towards the end of the autumn when I was carrying a lot more and without Billy and Mako in the Six Nations it gave me the opportunity to get more ball in hand and I now have the courage to do it.

“Ball-carrying is not easy, especially when you are not the biggest, strongest guy. It is easier for Billy but when you are a lanky, 115kg (18st 1lb) second row it is, maybe, not as easy.

“I had to go out of my way but I’m quick and powerful so I knew I could be a good ball-carrier again.

“I had been previously, but when you are injured time and again you go away from things and I went towards my defence, which I have always been good at. I had to bring that ball-carrying back.

“I am always going to be good in defence, but I can build on that and be good anywhere around the pitch and make sure that if we are in attack I can give to the team as well.”

Lawes also offered an insight into the working methods of coach Jones.

“Eddie demands loads which is good – you need that. You are always on edge because you don’t want to miss a meeting.

“I know exactly what he wants from me and that is all you can ask for from a coach.

“He is always telling me to eat because I drop weight so easily. He wants me to be 115kg. I used to be 110kg and I needed to be a bit heavier.”

Lawes was also able to look back at a personally pleasing Six Nations campaign – despite there being room for improvements – and ahead to a meeting with an old pal.

“I wouldn’t say I was disappointed in anything I did. Even in the Ireland game I made 22 tackles so I was working hard but I can still improve my carrying and make bigger hits.

“I made a lot of big tackles in the Italy game but people don’t see it because they were watching their big guys. But to keep doing it for the team is the main thing.

“I went well against Leicester for Saints and we’ve got Wasps this weekend and I get to play against my boy Launchers.”

NICK VERDIER

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