- Lawes has 55 caps for his country
- England next face Italy on 26 February
- Watch the England squad bond over bowls
England lock Courtney Lawes believes he is returning to his best form and says the competition for places is pushing him to get even better.
Lawes, 27, made his England debut in 2009 and has 55 caps for his country.
He has started England’s last six matches, including both games of the 2017 RBS 6 Nations, having suffered a number of injury problems over the past few years.
And the emergence of George Kruis and Maro Itoje as well as the continued fine form of Joe Launchbury has seen second-row become one of the most hotly-contest positions in the England side.
“I’ve had to raise my game,” said Lawes.
“Myself and Joe have had our fair share of injuries but we’ve put together a good run of games now both internationally and for our club so that makes a massive difference in terms of getting back to the type of form to stay ahead of Maro or Kruis. The good thing is, Eddie Jones is going to choose who is in the best form so all you can do is work your hardest.
He added: “I’ve had to push myself a lot harder in the last year-and-a-half than I have done previously in my career, it’s really good for me as I get to see where my potential is and how far I can go.”
Lawes has put in powerful performances against France and Wales this month and he feels he is nearing his best in an England shirt."I’m more mature, read the game better but hopefully there is a lot more to come."
However, he still feels he has a lot more to give and has added ball-carrying to his list of qualities.
“I’m really looking forward to pushing on,” said the Northampton Saints forward.
“It’s near enough my best form in an England shirt. When I first broke into the side before the run of injuries I was playing pretty well and I’m getting back to and near above there now. I’m more mature, read the game better but hopefully there is a lot more to come.
“I’m ball carrying a lot more now. I’ve always been pretty solid in defence and like a big hit but the biggest change is probably getting my hands on the ball.”
England next face Italy on 26 February after a bruising encounter against Wales in which Lawes in particular was at his physical and abrasive best.
He was described by Jones as a “human ice pack’ after the game, and admitted it was one of the toughest matches of his career.
“It’s part and parcel of how I play the game,” he said. “You know you’re going to put your body on the line, you just have to go out there and give it your all.
“It’s one of the hardest Test matches I’ve been involved in, the scoreline was so close and we were chasing the whole match and Wales were really putting it in.
“You want to have it in the bag by the last 10 minutes but that is not always the case, so you’ve got to rely on your fitness, heart and the boys coming off the bench to get you over the line.”