Courtney Lawes has cleared up the confusion over the back injury that forced him out of England victory over South Africa last week by revealing that he tore a disc in his back a week before sleeping uncomfortably in a hotel bed.
Lawes’ club coach Chris Boyd triggered interesting reactions when he claimed that the injury was caused by the 6ft 7in lock’s night in a south-west London hotel ahead of Northampton Saints’ clash with Leicester Tigers.
Lawes was forced to withdraw ahead of the 23-15 defeat by their East Midlands rivals in a Premiership match moved to Twickenham in aid of Rob Horne on 6 October, and Boyd revealed after what appeared to be the circumstances that led to the 29-year-old’s absence – as well as the belief that he would only be ruled out for a handful of days.
“He woke up and had a back problem,” Boyd said after the match. “We didn’t think it would be significant, but when he came out to run he couldn’t and put it down to the bed he was sleeping in.
“That was a problem for us. We stayed at a place down the road in Teddington. I think it is a problem when the bed is 5’11” and he’s 6’11”.
“I think he will wake up in two days and it will be gone. They can be grim for a short period of time then disappear as quick as they came along.”
But those in fact were not the circumstances that led to the injury, or the resulting lay-off. After being recalled this week for England’s mammoth Test this weekend against New Zealand – albeit among the replacements – Lawes has explained how the injury was suffered the previous week through rugby, rather than sleeping, and that the after-effects were worse than first feared.
Lawes attempted to return to action against the Dragons in Northampton’s European Challenge Cup victory two weeks later, but the appearance only aggravated the injury and upon turning up for England duty at their Portuguese training camp, it was decided fairly quickly that the clash against the Springboks would be too soon for him to feature.
“I tore a disc the week before that and it was kind of settling down but I was touch and go,” he said. “Then I slept in a not great bed and that just wrote it off.
“It didn’t actually make my back any worse, it just didn’t allow me to improve enough to play that game. It was just a normal, single bed.
“I played against the Dragons for Saints. I wanted to play that game – it was supposed to be my week off but I wanted the game time before the autumn.
“I wasn’t able to sort my back out in time for South Africa but I only just missed out on that so I’ve been able to train all week and I’m ready to go now.”
His return provides England with one of their big-impact players to reinforce what is a weakened pack due to injuries and suspension, and his presence, should he come on, will only increase England’s defensive capabilities given his reputation as one of the game’s fiercest tacklers.
But Lawes is also aware that he has a key role to play in not only injecting England’s game with the impact demanded of him by Eddie Jones, but of matching the levels that the All Blacks rise to during the final quarter.
“We’ve always got the task of upping the intensity when we come on the pitch and adding to the game,” he added. “It’s always the case when we’re on the bench – when we come on we want to make a big impact.
“It’s probably their condition, executing under fatigue but it’s the same thing we’ve been working on for the last three years so it’s going to be a great challenge.
“You’re always pushing for a place in the squad so you want to come on and make a difference to give yourself the best chance of getting more game time next week.”