'Naturally talented' - Eddie Jones tips ideal replacement for Owen Farrell
Farrell misses Saturday’s final match of the autumn against South Africa because of ankle surgery that also throws into doubt his availability for the start of the Six Nations.
Renewing the role he performed against Tonga two weeks ago, Lawes will lead the team out at Twickenham after nailing down the blindside flanker spot.
The 32-year-old Northampton forward wins his 90th cap having added some subtler skills to his trademark physicality and now Jones views him as the natural skipper of an England squad that includes veterans Ben Youngs and Maro Itoje.
“Courtney wasn’t a leader the first time I laid eyes on him. He was a fairly laconic, laid-back, naturally talented rugby player,” Jones said.
“And what’s impressed me about Courtney is over the six years that I’ve been involved with him, he still has that personality but his attitude towards his rugby is far different.
“He is much more diligent in his preparation and is much more of a contributor in a team environment. And hence the responsibility that he has gained for this game.
“He’s a player that people listen to and he not only speaks well but leads by example, so we couldn’t have had a better man to replace Owen Farrell for this game as captain.”
South Africa’s assault in the rematch of the 2019 World Cup final will come through their set-piece and kicking game.
Lawes will have a key role to play in subduing the Springboks on the first front, while wing Jonny May must guide an otherwise inexperienced back three also containing Freddie Steward and Joe Marchant in diffusing the second.
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“We have confidence in our ability in the air and it’s something we practice hard on. It’s a big part of rugby in the Premiership. To be an England player, you need to have that strength,” May said.
“If I was to anticipate how South Africa are going to play, they do what they do and they do it even better each week. I can’t see them going away from what they do.
“They will think ‘these guys are good in the air, we are going to prove we are better’. They are going to come straight at us, that’s what I expect.”
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