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Lawes still treasuring every match for Saints

Courtney Lawes has reached plenty of milestones having been at the top of the game for over a decade, but the Northampton Saints stalwart admits his latest one has been a long time coming.

Lawes is set to make his 250th appearance for Saints in tomorrow’s crucial Heineken Champions Cup clash against Ulster, in which you can expect him to be a central figure, as he has so often been down the years.

After making his debut against Esher during Saints’ promotion season from National League One in October 2007, Lawes developed into one of the standout forwards in the country.

The 32-year-old is one of the remaining members in Saints’ squad from their 2013/14 Premiership triumph and is a veteran of three World Cups and two British & Irish Lions tours.

However, over four years have passed since he reached his double century with the Club, when he faced off against Clermont-Auvergne in the same competition in which he will finally bring up his 250.

That is down to a combination of international duty and injuries that limited him to just 17 Saints appearances across the last two seasons.

After sitting out last weekend’s resounding victory at Newcastle Falcons, Lawes is ready to play a leading role again and even though he’s focused on the game, he’s looking forward to the occasion.

“It does feel like I had my 200th game so long ago,” Lawes said.

“I’ve been injured quite a bit in the last few years, so I’ve been stuck around the early 200s for a while, but it’s good to finally make it.

“I just enjoy playing for the club, regardless of the number.

“Obviously, it’s good to celebrate certain milestones, but generally I just try and enjoy my time here and try and give back as much as I can.”

Courtney Lawes

Lawes has featured four times since returning from captaining England through much of the Autumn Nations Series, although results have been mixed during what is a crucial stage in the season.

However, Saints are still fighting on three fronts and Lawes is determined to play his part in helping them pick up results on a more consistent basis in what we now know will be Director of Rugby Chris Boyd’s final season in charge.

He said: “The league is an interesting place at the minute and I think that’s really good because it’s exciting for the fans.

“It’s incredible that you don’t 100 per cent know who’s going to win this game or that and we’ve had not necessarily a rocky season, but we’ve been inconsistent in parts.

“In some games we’re unbelievable and we can beat anyone and in others we’re really not at the races.

“It’s something we’ve identified, which is the main thing, and we are doing our best to address it, so I’d say the season so far is going quite well.

“We’re obviously very close to the top four, which is exactly where we want to be, so if we can just tighten up this ship a bit and tighten our consistency up, we will go well.”

It will feel like only yesterday for Saints fans who remember Lawes’ formative years that he was the young tyro in the forward pack, bringing energy to the side with his powerful carrying and his almighty tackling.

He is, of course, now one of the senior figures in what is largely a young squad that has had to do plenty of maturing during Boyd’s tenure, not least skipper Lewis Ludlam.

Lawes believes that he and other academy graduates, such as Alex Mitchell, Rory Hutchinson and George Furbank, are now capable of exerting their increasing influence to take Saints to the next level.

He said: “Obviously the coaches do look to players like me or Dan Biggar, who have been around a long time and seen a lot of things, to lean on and help with that kind of stuff.

“But, at the same time, you can’t leave it all to us. We have to find other places for leaders to step up.

“That’s a big thing for us – me, Biggs, Luds or Sue [Alex Waller] are all going to have off-days where we’re maybe not playing as well or we’re a bit flat and haven’t got the energy we usually have.

“That’s when you need other people to be able to step up and take that role on for you.

“I think that’s something we’ve got to work on, it’s something we’ve had a look at and something we can definitely improve on.”

This afternoon will probably not mark the last time Lawes reaches a milestone, as he is closing in on reaching a century of caps with England (he is currently on 90) and will likely come ever closer towards that doing during the upcoming Six Nations.

He knows, however, that he will have to continue to produce the goods at club level if Eddie Jones is going to keep on calling, starting with today’s clash against Ulster.

“The thing with that is you can’t really look too far ahead because you never know what’s going to happen,” Lawes said.

“I haven’t even been picked yet, so all I can do is go out there, play well against Ulster, hope I’m in the team and then go from there.”

And on leading his country out again?

“If I get the opportunity, I’d obviously love to be able to do that, but at the end of the day, whoever is picked to be a leader, if I’m there then I’ll be there to support them and do my best for my country,” he added.

“Obviously, being able to do that in the autumn was amazing for me; not necessarily to just be captain, but to be able to give that bit extra for my team, with the experience I have, was great.”

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