Irish clash will be a brawl – Lawes

Date published: February 11 2014

England second-row Courtney Lawes expects a huge physical contest when Ireland visit Twickenham on Six Nations duty this month.

England second-row Courtney Lawes expects a huge physical contest when Ireland visit Twickenham on Six Nations duty this month.

With Ireland unbeaten in the tournament so far, and England developing well under Stuart Lancaster, the 24-year-old acknowledges the meeting of the two could prove a brutal war of attrition.

“They're going well at the minute, they're going to come over very confidently,” said Lawes.

“I think it's going to be a brawl; they're probably going to target the ruck area, try and maul us up front and make it a big physical battle. We're definitely ready for it, and we've got a nice weekend off next week.”

As the home pack's designated “enforcer”, Lawes will be at the heart of the tussle in the tight, and the contest at the breakdown. The clash also sees him rekindle his duel with veteran Irish second-row, Paul O'Connell. Four years ago, as his Northampton Saints side met O'Connell's Munster in the Heineken Cup, new-boy Lawes went toe-to-toe with the British and Irish Lions skipper in a display that turned heads, and heralded his arrival on the big stage.

And while O'Connell will surely have kept one eye on the progress of the lanky lad from the English Midlands, Lawes is not underestimating the scale of England's task.

“We're coming a long way as a team – we obviously haven't got as many caps as them, but our enthusiasm and our willingness to learn is going to pay dividends,” affirmed Lawes.

“They're going to come over flying, I'd imagine. We need to be 100% ready to go and have a battle; we will be just as motivated and just as ready to dog it out as they are.”

While his own form this season has been encouraging for fans of both Saints and England, Lawes has not forgotten how his club side were ripped apart on home turf by a rampant Leinster outfit in December, led by Jamie Heaslip and Brian O'Driscoll. Though Saints avenged the 40-7 reverse in Dublin a week later, the second-row is wary of a flying Irish start.

“This season's been a good season for me,” acknowledged Lawes.

“Last year, I spent most of it fit, but I was just getting back into my stride and getting used to playing again after such a long time out injured. This season I've started off well and managed to tinker with certain things, getting my confidence back, improving a few technical points – that's the kind of thing you can only do when you're fit, training every day and playing at the weekend.

“I'm feeling really confident; I'm carrying well and tackling well. The lineout's running very well, so things are good for me at the moment.

“A lot of the Saints boys in the squad will be telling the lads exactly what it's like and how they can put you on the back foot straight away. It's so important that we don't let that happen.”

Lawes is renowned in the Aviva Premiership for his big-hitting style, with a tackle technique that often sees him dive headlong at opponents with predictably bone-crunching consequences.

Though England let slip their rear-guard in Paris, conceding a late French try in Round One that lost them the game, they kept Scotland scoreless at Murrayfield a week later.

The second-row was, as usual, in the thick of an aggressive defensive display, finishing with eight tackles to his name. The Scots had no answer for the visitors' rapid line-speed and bruising collisions, with Lawes crediting assistant coach Andy Farrell for the team's prowess without the ball.

“Our defence was outstanding today, and it's credit to us that they didn't score,” added Lawes, post-match.

“It's brilliant, it gets us so motivated to go out there and make big hits and defend like our lives depend on it. It's good to see the boys all making big tackles and making sure we knock them backwards.

“He (Farrell) loves a bit of contact,” chided Lawes.

“He's making sure we're doing enough defence during the week in training to have confidence on the guys inside and outside you to be able to get in the opposition's faces and put in those big hits.

“We squeezed them and didn't give them any chance to get back in the game and put pressure on us, which was perfect.”

By Jamie Lyall @JLyall93