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Courtney Lawes hailed as best in the world behind Antoine Dupont

By Josh Raisey
Courtney Lawes of Northampton Saints looks on during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby match between Northampton Saints and Exeter Chiefs at Cinch Stadium at Franklin's Gardens on November 12, 2023 in Northampton, England. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Courtney Lawes may have retired from international rugby, but he showed against Leinster on Saturday in the Investec Champions Cup semi-final that he is every bit as capable of still playing at that standard, as he has done all season for Northampton Saints.

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In a match that was effectively a Test match in every way but its name, the former England flanker shone, producing the most turnovers in the contest alongside 18 tackles.

Stats like that will not come as a surprise to anyone who has watched Lawes this season, who, even in the twilight years of his career, is playing some of his best rugby. That form has resulted in a nomination for European player of the year.

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Such is the 35-year-old’s level at the moment that his teammate, and fellow player of the year nominee, Fin Smith thinks there is only one player better than him on Earth currently, Antoine Dupont.

As a guest on The Rugby Pod this week, the England fly-half discussed the loss to Leinster, while singling out the performance of Lawes, who is nearing the end of his 17-year association with Northampton before joining Brive next season.

Match Summary

1
Penalty Goals
1
3
Tries
2
1
Conversions
2
0
Drop Goals
0
159
Carries
100
5
Line Breaks
6
18
Turnovers Lost
17
7
Turnovers Won
9

“How good was he?” the 21-year-old said.

“He was so good. I think that’s why it was even more gutting afterwards. He’s leaving the club in such a good spot, and playing as well as he did, we couldn’t quite do it for him. Genuinely, I think it wouldn’t be outrageous to say he’s the best, if not just a close second after [Antoine] Dupont, players in the world this season, he’s been that good for us.”

Smith also gave an insight into Lawes’ leadership qualities, and how he rallied the team at halftime at Croke Park. The Saints were trailing 15-3 at the break in Dublin, but were within touching distance of the final come the end of the match, narrowly falling 20-17.

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“The main one was Courtney,” Smith said.

“Courtney pulled us in and said ‘lads, I don’t know if you’ve realised it, but these lot aren’t way better than us,’ like we may have built it up in our heads a little bit.

“He was like ‘we can properly go out and win this, regardless of the score. They’re going to find it hard to live with us.”

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