Lawes faces battle to win back England starting spot

ENGLAND lock Courtney Lawes concedes he faces an uphill struggle to win back his starting place at the World Cup, with the team having gone from strength to strength in his absence.

Lawes has missed the last two games, a flawed thrashing of Georgia followed by an impressive demolition of Romania, after being cited for striking an opponent in the scrappy opening win over Argentina.

But he is back in contention for Saturday’s Pool B showdown with Scotland, and hoping to convince manager Martin Johnson that he is ready to return and book England’s place in the last eight.

“There was a very good game at the weekend [against Romania] and a lot of the boys played really well,” he said. “In training this week I have to do whatever I can to try and get back into the team. The next couple of days will tell when I find out the team.”

The 22-year-old still views his citing, for kneeing Pumas hooker Mario Ledesma, as harsh but says he did not take up the opportunity to appeal because he could not risk having his punishment increased.

“I thought it was a bit harsh but what can you do? You just have to get on with it and take it on the chin and that’s what I have done,” he added.

“It has never happened before. I didn’t try and do anything malicious, I’m always physical but I don’t aim to hurt people, that’s just part of my game.

“There was no point in risking it [an appeal]. If I miss out on Scotland then I might struggle to get back into the team for the quarter-finals.

“I have only been cited once in the five years I have been playing so it is pretty rare and I don’t think it is going to happen again soon.”

England will find out today whether they face more disciplinary action, relating to fly-half Jonny Wilkinson’s attempts to change balls against Romania on Saturday.

Rules state that a ball can only be changed in between try-scoring and conversion if it is defective – something Wilkinson twice attempted.

England, who have already been warned by officials after the numbers peeled off their shirts, face a possible fine if found guilty of breaking either the laws of the game or the World Cup participation agreement.