Little did Courtney Lawes imagine in his formative rugby days that he would become the 2010 Investec Man of the Series, play in the 2011 RWC and go on to establish himself at Test level. His caps include one as a flanker in the starting line-up against France at Twickenham in February 2013 and two off the bench in the historic series win in Argentina that summer.
He appeared in three RWC matches including the quarter-final against France but was unavailable for the opening two RBS 6 Nations Championship games in 2012 through a knee injury sustained against Newcastle Falcons on New Year’s Eve.
Courtney played off the bench for the final 19 minutes against Wales at Twickenham in February 2012 but subsequently underwent a scan on his right leg that revealed an inflammation of the tibia and he was unavailable for the France match in Paris the following month.
Injuries delayed his next appearance until December 2012 when he played off the bench for the last 13 minutes against the All Blacks in an electric atmosphere at Twickenham. The circumstances of the match made his comeback memorable as England beat the All Blacks for the first time in ten matches. It started his sequence of 16 consecutive Tests leading to his 40th cap in the final RWC warm-up match against Ireland that England won 21-13 at Twickenham in September 2015.
His powerful tackle on Ireland full back Rob Kearney had led to the penalty goal by Owen Farrell that took England into a match-winning 12-6 lead over Ireland at the Aviva Stadium 20 months earlier. He was among the bench replacements that helped to re-energise England in the second Test against Australia at Melbourne last June and helped to create the final try for Owen Farrell with a rampaging run. In November, he scored his maiden try for England with impeccable timing when celebrating his 50th cap. He pounced on a loose ball over the South Africa line for the second of his side's four touchdons in the 37-21 victory. Courtney has now played in 43 of England’s past 52 matches, including the Wales game in February when his skills and work rate made him a contender for the man of the match award.
Just like England luminaries Ben Cohen and Steve Thompson, Courtney graduated to Northampton Saints from the Northampton Old Scouts rugby club that was founded in 1926 by scouts around a campfire at Castle Ashby.
Courtney was born in Hackney but raised only a punt away from Franklin's Gardens, the home of the Saints, and is relishing a career that gathered momentum with a cap against Australia in November 2009. He won others against Scotland in March 2010 and Australia at Perth that June before his first starts against the Wallabies in Sydney and New Zealand at Twickenham.
Something equally memorable was to follow when he took a blind-side pass from Ben Youngs against Australia and sent away Chris Ashton on the 85-metre sprint to the Australia line that projected England into a 26-6 lead on the way to the 35-18 victory at Twickenham in November 2010.
A towering forward with athleticism to match, he rocketed into the club’s senior side in January 2009 with a man-of-the-match display against Montpellier while still a member of the senior academy. His Premiership debut followed a fortnight later off the bench against Harlequins.
A National One appearance against Esher in 2007-08 was his first-team baptism and illustrated his qualities as a quick learner. He took up the game only 12 years ago, started thinking about rugby seriously when he was 16 and was the only member of the England U20 squad that reached the final of the IRB Junior World Championship in Japan in June 2009 to be chosen for the Saxons squad that July.
Further promotion followed to the England Elite Squad the next autumn after Nick Easter was injured. Courtney said after his Saxons selection: “I was not expecting it. I have had a lot of congratulations but I am going to keep my head down and work hard.”
He has done just that and made 185 appearances and scored five tries for the Saints in eight-and-a-half seasons by mid-January this year. An injury to his left knee sustained in a match against Saracens in October 2012 ruled him out of contention for the QBE Internationals against Fiji and Australia the following month. His other exploits include being the top lineout ball winner, with 11, on either side when England beat Scotland at Murrayfield in February 2014. The following month, he was man of the match in the 29-18 victory over Wales at Twickenham and impressed in the QBE Internationals that year.
Courtney, who was educated at Moulton College, had toured Australia with England U18 in 2007, missed the 2008 U20 Six Nations Championship through injury but figured in the 2009 tournament before continuing to produce commanding performances at blind-side flanker and lock for his club.
5 points - 1T
2009 A(R) 2010 S(R), A(1R,2), NZ, A, Sam, SA 2011 W, I World Cup - Arg, S, F(R) 2012 W(R), NZ(R) 2013 S(R), I(R), F, It(R), W(R), Arg (1R,2R), A, Arg, NZ 2014 F, S, I, W, It, NZ (2R,3), NZ, SA, Sam, A 2015 S, F, F, I World Cup - Fj, W 2016 S(R), It, I(R), W, A(1R,2R,3R) Fj, Arg, A 2017 F, W, It, S
Last updated: 13 March 2017