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Northampton statement: Courtney Lawes signs for Brive

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Julian Finney/World Rugby via Getty Images)

Northampton have confirmed that Courtney Lawes will exit the Saints at the end of the 2023/24 season after agreeing on a move to Brive in France.


The England centurion, who retired from international rugby at the end of the recent Rugby World Cup, had been tipped in recent weeks to join the mid-table Pro D2 club despite interest from their French league rivals Provence and an offer to remain on at Franklin’s Gardens.

RugbyPass exclusively reported on Tuesday that Lawes would be travelling to France this week and he finally put pen to paper on the deal on Friday – the same day as his 35th birthday – ahead of Brive’s game at home to Valence-Romans.

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Lawes said: “I want to make it clear that I really would have liked to end my career as a one-club man, and Saints did everything they possibly could to make that happen – our conversations were all very positive.

“But, first and foremost, I have to make sure that my family and I are in the best position possible for my retirement, which will be in the next couple of years.

“This is likely to be the last contract I will ever sign, and the offer I have received to play overseas will be transformational for my family, so there was no way I could turn it down and I took the decision to move away from Northampton.

“I’m so grateful for everything that Saints has given to me. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to play so long for my hometown, and the supporters have been amazing through it all – in both the good times and the bad.


“I have been through it all with Saints and I just hope that my efforts on the pitch have reflected my appreciation for the club. It’s incredibly sad for me to be leaving, but ultimately, I know I am leaving Saints in really good hands-on and off the pitch with the players, coaches and staff we have.

“I know that they will continue to push on and I hope they can become the best side in England for an extended period. I’ll always be a massive supporter of Northampton. I have always given everything I have to the club, and that is only going to continue for these final few months in black, green and gold.

“We have got a brilliant opportunity to go and do something amazing this season, and it would be fantastic to leave on the high note of winning a trophy, so I’ll be giving it my all to achieve that.”

Northampton CEO Mark Darbon added: “Clearly, it’s very disappointing that Courtney has decided to leave Saints, but it is a decision he has made with the long-term future of his family in mind, which we fully understand and respect.


“We obviously wanted Courtney to stay and we made him a significantly increased offer to remain part of our squad. But given this will probably be his last-ever contract and the incredible service he has already given to the club over the last 17 seasons, no one can begrudge him accepting a very substantial alternative offer to finish his career overseas.

“Given the financial challenges that we, like all Premiership clubs, are still navigating, ultimately we just could not compete with the transformational scale of the offer Courtney has received, without impacting our investment into the wider squad and the club more broadly.

“We will miss him around the Gardens but he departs on great terms with our very best wishes for the future, and we hope to send him off in style at the end of this season.”

Saints director of rugby Phil Dowson said: “It’s impossible to sum up Courtney’s contribution to Saints and England over the last 17 years. He is still one of the very best – if not the best – number 6s in the world, he has done it all in a Northampton shirt, his international experience is almost unparalleled, and off the field, he gives our group so much in terms of confidence and leadership.

“I am convinced he would have loved to stay here at Saints to finish his career, but sometimes the offer is simply too good to refuse, and he has absolutely earned the right to accept it. He’s got a young family and I’m sure this new adventure will be a great experience for them too.

“It speaks volumes about Courtney’s talent and mindset that he didn’t feel like he got the best out of himself last season in a Saints shirt because of injuries, so he decided to stay on for another year and finish his time in Northampton on his terms.

“He has achieved that in how well he has played – he has been extraordinary this season so far – and I’m sure he’ll continue to push himself for these final few months because of how strongly he feels for the club and the town.

“It’s going to be the end of an era when Courtney hangs up his boots here, and the squad has to ensure we harness that emotional energy properly – it can be a positive and powerful thing, but we also need to stay focused on what we’re trying to do for the remainder of the season.”


A Northampton club statement paying tribute to Lawes’ career read: “After 17 seasons at Northampton, Courtney Lawes will depart the club after the 2023/24 campaign after electing to finish his illustrious career with one final adventure overseas at Brive.

“A legend in black, green and gold, Lawes has played 274 matches for Northampton to date, while also racking up 105 Test caps for England prior to his international retirement, and a further five for the British and Irish Lions.

“Having risen through the club’s academy ranks, and growing up just around the corner from cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens, the 35-year-old first pulled on a Saints jersey back in 2007 and has since proven himself to be one of the greatest players of all time to represent Northampton.

“Lawes has won a series of trophies in black, green and gold, and has been one of the club’s outstanding performers ever since breaking into the first team as an 18-year-old.

“After helping Northampton win promotion back to the Premiership from National One at the first time of asking, he then lifted both the European Challenge Cup in 2009 and the Anglo-Welsh Cup in 2010 with Saints, before a European Champions Cup final followed in 2011.

“Lawes was then instrumental in Northampton’s greatest season to date in 2014, with the side claiming their first-ever Premiership title and a second Challenge Cup trophy within eight days of each other.

“He was voted the club’s player of the season in 2019/20 by Saints supporters, reached the 250-appearance milestone for Saints against Ulster in January 2022, and was named an honorary freeman of Northampton by the town council last December.

“From his Test debut in 2009 to his international retirement in October, Lawes was an ever-present for England, representing his country at four Rugby World Cups (helping the Red Rose reach the final in 2019) and winning three Six Nations titles including one Grand Slam.

“Lawes captained England throughout the 2021/22 season, and also twice toured with the British and Irish Lions (in 2017 to New Zealand and 2021 to South Africa) earning five further Test caps in the process.”


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Jon 1 days ago
Why Sam Cane's path to retirement is perfect for him and the All Blacks

> It would be best described as an elegant solution to what was potentially going to be a significant problem for new All Blacks coach Scott Robertson. It is a problem the mad population of New Zealand will have to cope with more and more as All Blacks are able to continue their careers in NZ post RWCs. It will not be a problem for coaches, who are always going to start a campaign with the captain for the next WC in mind. > Cane, despite his warrior spirit, his undoubted commitment to every team he played for and unforgettable heroics against Ireland in last year’s World Cup quarter-final, was never unanimously admired or respected within New Zealand while he was in the role. Neither was McCaw, he was considered far too passive a captain and then out of form until his last world cup where everyone opinions changed, just like they would have if Cane had won the WC. > It was never easy to see where Cane, or even if, he would fit into Robertson’s squad given the new coach will want to be building a new-look team with 2027 in mind. > Cane will win his selections on merit and come the end of the year, he’ll sign off, he hopes, with 100 caps and maybe even, at last, universal public appreciation for what was a special career. No, he won’t. Those returning from Japan have already earned the right to retain their jersey, it’s in their contract. Cane would have been playing against England if he was ready, and found it very hard to keep his place. Perform, and they keep it however. Very easy to see where Cane could have fit, very hard to see how he could have accomplished it choosing this year as his sabbatical instead of 2025, and that’s how it played out (though I assume we now know what when NZR said they were allowing him to move his sabbatical forward and return to NZ next year, they had actually agreed to simply select him for the All Blacks from overseas, without any chance he was going to play in NZ again). With a mammoth season of 15 All Black games they might as well get some value out of his years contract, though even with him being of equal character to Richie, I don’t think they should guarantee him his 100 caps. That’s not what the All Blacks should be about. He absolutely has to play winning football.

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