Injured Lawes to miss tour of South Africa
ENGLAND coach Stuart Lancaster’s plans for this summer’s tour to South Africa suffered another blow yesterday when lock Courtney Lawes was ruled out with a shin injury.
Lawes, of Northampton Saints, joins fellow forwards Tom Wood and Tom Croft in missing the crucial tour and compounds Lancaster’s problems in a period where coaching targets Andy Farrell and Wayne Smith both rejected the chance to take on key roles in the England set-up. He will also remain unavailable for Northampton’s bid to win the Premiership play-offs.
During the Six Nations, Lawes was only fit to appear against Wales before injury inhibited further selection but there is little doubt he is England’s premier second-rower.
Northampton director of rugby Jim Mallinder, believed to be among those considered for England’s head coaching role before Lancaster was appointed as Martin Johnson’s successor, admitted Lawes was disappointed but believes he will overcome his problems.
“He’s gutted,” said Mallinder. “You want to be involved in the big games. He’s been a bit unfortunate [but] he’ll come back fighting fit. He’s got a lot of years to go. It happens.”
Though Lancaster is not yet at the point of crisis in his selection of forwards available to tour, Lawes’ injury – coupled with those to Wood and Croft, and a suspension to Calum Clark – means further withdrawals risk upsetting the continuity he has enjoyed since replacing Johnson.
James Haskell is likely to make an international return but, regardless, Lancaster confirmed his intention to explore the possibility of including an overseas player in his squad. Though the Rugby Football Union prefer not to, the head coach will be permitted to do so under “exceptional circumstances”, meaning a call up for Toulon flanker Steffon Armitage, brother of full-back Delon, may be considered.
“We have this situation where, in exceptional circumstances, we have the opportunity to bring players back,” said Lancaster. “Steffon is an example of that. He is clearly playing well, although we do have other players in his position playing well too. He is one we will consider.”