Mallinder hails ‘wonderful’ Lawes

Date published: February 28 2015

Northampton boss Jim Mallinder was full of praise for lock Courtney Lawes on his return from injury against Harlequins.

The England second row made his 150th appearance for the club after ten weeks out following ankle surgery, doing enough to win the Man of the Match award.

Mallinder suggested that Lawes may be a game of two away from being ready to play for England, putting him in the frame possibly for the late Six Nations games against Scotland and France.

"It was a wonderful performance from Courtney after being out of the game for quite a long time," Mallinder said.

"He seemed to get stronger as the game progressed. In the second half he was making tackles and carrying the ball – I think he has missed it. He loves playing the game and I think we saw that in his performance.

"I don't think he is far away (from being ready for England) – perhaps one more game for Saints would be good for him."

Mallinder admitted that his side's lineout had struggled, despite the presence of Lawes, in Friday's 17-13 win.

"Quins made it hard for us. They played well. They did a good job on our lineout, so we didn't get too much tempo or build too many phases in our game.

"Our mauls got us some good tries and we put in a very good defensive display."

The victory has opened up an impressive 13-point lead for the Premiership champions, with the rest of the sides yet to play this weekend.

"We are building the experience in terms of our personnel in the squad. For Courtney to get 150 and Wood 100 appearances is what we want," Mallinder said.

"We have a squad who enjoy playing for each other. We have a good lead – you would definitely take that at the beginning of the season, but we don't get anything for being in this position.

"That will quickly be forgotten if we lose a few games and don't get a home semi-final. We didn't play brilliantly today – we can do better and we are happy to have that lead."

Harlequins boss Conor O'Shea meanwhile insists his side will be better off after slipping to a third Premiership defeat in a row in their hunt for the top four.

"We will play every game and we will see where it takes. We will keep fighting until mathematically we are out of it," said O'Shea.

"We will benefit from this period a lot more than people imagine. We will come out of it a much better side. We just need the little things to go our way.

"You come away from home and the crowd are going to get a good few decisions – you need to be 10 points better when you come away from home. There is no point griping about that."