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'Wasn't that impressed': Jones' brutal first impression of Lawes

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/The RFU Collection via Getty Imagesges)

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England boss Eddie Jones has admitted that he wasn’t a fan of his current skipper Courtney Lawes when he first arrived from Japan as Stuart Lancaster’s successor following the 2015 World Cup. The 33-year-old forward had been playing for England since a 2009 debut but ex-Australian coach Jones wasn’t an admirer during the early part of his first year in charge. 

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Lawes was capped in seven of Jones’ first nine matches in charge in the first half of 2016 but just two of those appearances came as a starter and it was only across the 2016/17 season that he eventually found favour with his new boss as he started in nine successive Test games over the November and Six Nations campaigns.  

Having been sidelined these past six weeks with a concussion issue stemming from a European game last month with Northampton, Lawes has been restored to the England team for this Saturday’s round three Six Nations game at home to Wales. He will also skipper the team after Tom Curry had that responsibility when Lawes was absent for the games against Scotland and Italy.   

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The reinstatement highlights how much of a fan Jones currently is of Lawes, who celebrated his latest birthday on Wednesday, but it wasn’t always that way. Asked what his first impression of Lawes was when he took over as England coach, Jones didn’t sugarcoat his opinion. 

“I always remember watching him for England, he was like this torpedo who’d come out of the line and drill people and that was the most significant part of his game and when I first got here I must admit I wasn’t that impressed by him,” he said.  

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“His attitude was pretty laidback, he had a lot of injuries, didn’t train much and he had to come up to the standards of what we require in the team and he has done that brilliantly. I couldn’t fault his dedication and his discipline now. He knows his body, looks after his body well. He is committed to being the best player he can be but he hasn’t changed as a person which is fantastic. 

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“I don’t mind the club sandwiches because he just needs to keep weight on. It was not looking after his body in the rehab and training. You need to train hard – and he wasn’t training hard. He was doing more rehab than training but he sorted that out very well and he is a real role model for our team now.”

Jones dismissed the suggestion that Lawes might be undercooked for a Test match of the intensity expected against Wales given how he missed the opening two rounds of the championship this month with England due to his January 16 concussion when playing for Northampton

“He has had a pretty solid preparation for the game and the one thing we know about Courtney is he tends to play very well fresh out of the paddock. That is our experience with him and because he has got quite a unique body, he is fast-twitch but he is tall and skinny so it is easy to get the work into him which happened and we believe he will be able to play a significant role in the game.

“He has got a great mindset at the moment. He is really committed to being the best player he can and he wants to play on to the next World Cup. It was his birthday Wednesday, he had a big chocolate cake for 33 and they couldn’t find enough candles to put on it. I have never seen him in such a good frame of mind that he is focused on his rugby but at the same time, he is still that laconic, relaxed fellow. 

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“There is no reason why his best rugby can’t be ahead of him. You just recall that game against Tonga (in November), when again I don’t think he played a lot of rugby before that, and he made that tackle on Sione (Vailanu) in the right-hand corner coming from absolutely nowhere.” 

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