NORTHAMPTON lock Courtney Lawes has shown his England team-mates he packs just as much of a punch as emerging centre Manu Tuilagi – and intends to prove it against Wales tomorrow.
Lawes and Tuilagi, who shone on a bone-crunching debut in last weekend’s win over the Welsh at Twickenham, have taken in turns to pummel their team-mates in Martin Johnson’s pre-World Cup training camp. And the 22-year-old, who missed that match and the RBS Six Nations campaign through injury, is looking forward to resuming his England career and showcasing his own destructive power back in a much-changed side.
“You are supposed to train how you play and that is what I try and do. The other boys aren’t that happy but they get over it,” said Lawes. “In training there have been a couple of times when Manu has put in a big hit and I have done one straight afterwards. There is a bit of competition there.”
Lawes needed oxygen and a neck brace after training collision a fortnight ago, and Johnson admitted his delight at being able to call upon a player he rates as the most athletic second-row in the game.
“He gives you line-speed, he can hit very hard and he carries the ball very well. He’s a pretty instinctive rugby player as well,” the England manager said. “His tight game, his mauling game – his club have asked him to do that a lot and he does it very well. He’s reasonably young and developing into an all-round second row.”
Aside from Lawes, Johnson has made 12 other changes, including recalling forwards Dan Cole, Steve Thompson, Louis Deacon, Tom Wood, Hendre Fourie and Nick Easter.
Backs Ben Foden, Chris Ashton and Toby Flood all return, while Mike Tindall takes over as captain from the injured Lewis Moody and resumes an oft-criticised midfield partnership with Shontayne Hape.
TEAM NEWS | WALES V ENGLAND
Starting XV Ben Foden; Chris Ashton; Mike Tindall (c), Shontayne Hape, Mark Cueto; Toby Flood, Richard Wigglesworth; Alex Corbisiero, Steve Thompson, Dan Cole, Louis Deacon, Courtney Lawes, Tom Wood, Hendre Fourie, Nick Easter
Replacements Lee Mears, Matt Stevens, Tom Palmer, James Haskell, Danny Care, Charlie Hodgson, Matt Banahan