Courtney Lawes is set to return from injury for Northampton Saints

Timely boost for England as Courtney Lawes returns for Northampton following a three-month absence – with veteran likely to come into consideration to be England captain under Steve Borthwick

  • Courtney Lawes is set to return from a protracted injury lay off this weekend
  • The England and Northampton star has been unavailable for three months 
  • He will make the match-day squad for Northampton’s game with La Rochelle 
  • Lawes is also likely to be a contender for England captain under Steve Borthwick 

Courtney Lawes is set to make his long-awaited comeback from a protracted head injury lay-off on Saturday — delivering a boost to Northampton and England, at the end of a turbulent week.

The 33-year-old forward is expected to feature in the Saints’ match-day squad which will be named on Friday for their Heineken European Champions Cup opener against champions La Rochelle at their Stade Marcel-Deflandre fortress. 

It is destined to be a daunting but enticing comeback scenario for Lawes, who will be making his first appearance for 11 weeks.

It was back on September 24 when his season debut ended prematurely, after a concussive blow early in the second half of Northampton’s local derby against Leicester forced the veteran off the field in a groggy state.

Courtney Lawes is set to return from his long injury lay off for Northampton Saints on Saturday

Lawes hoped to recover in time for England’s pre-autumn training camp in Jersey, but he missed that target and subsequent ones as he was repeatedly unable to complete the return-to-play protocols without experiencing concussion symptoms.

Early last month, Eddie Jones — while still national coach — revealed that he had come to terms with not having Lawes on duty for Tests against Argentina, Japan, New Zealand and South Africa. He also revealed concerns about his welfare, saying: ‘I’m worried about his health, at this time; that he gets back to 100 per cent health.

‘But these things have a natural course. Some heal quicker than others. If it takes a bit of time, the most important thing is his health and he’ll get back to playing rugby when he’s ready. We are allowing it to take its natural course. We’re hopeful that he will be back for the Six Nations.’

His return to fitness will also be a huge boost for England, for who Lawes has won 96 caps

Although that wish will no longer benefit Jones himself, it will benefit England and it appears likely to come true. Northampton issued a positive bulletin when their director of rugby, Phil Dowson, said: ‘Courtney trained a lot last week and we said we’d leave it up until the last main training day, which was Thursday, for him to decide whether he felt ready to play or not. He didn’t feel ready.

‘We’ll give him the same opportunity this week. Courtney knows Courtney better than anyone else and when he says he’s ready, then he’ll be involved, but he’s unlikely to start (against La Rochelle) considering how long he’s been out.’ 

Any involvement for Lawes on Saturday will assist Northampton with the onerous task of stopping Ronan O’Gara’s kings of the continent.

Impending England coach Steve Borthwick will surely consider Lawes for the captaincy again

It will also become a focus of forward planning for Steve Borthwick, at whatever point he is officially unveiled as England’s new head coach.

The absence of Lawes was keenly felt by the struggling national team last month, both as a key forward and as a composed, authoritative leader. 

If he can return to peak form again quickly, he will be a certainty for inclusion in the Six Nations squad — as he seeks four more caps to reach his England century — and will surely come into consideration for the captaincy again.

When Owen Farrell was absent from the November campaign in 2021, Lawes stepped in as skipper and excelled. He deputised again for much of the Six Nations and led a spirited campaign Down Under in the summer to clinch a series victory over the Wallabies.

The captaincy will be one dilemma for Borthwick and another which relates to Lawes is whether he is best deployed at lock or as the starting blindside flanker. 

That decision affects the overall balance of the pack and it will be among the primary selection issues for Jones’s successor to ponder once he has been installed. 

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