Courtney Lawes: I'm done with England – but available for Lions

Courtney Lawes: I'm done with England – but available for Lions
Courtney Lawes: I'm done with England – but available for Lions

Courtney Lawes has revealed he is prepared to come out of international retirement if asked to play for the British and Irish Lions for the tour of Australia in 2025 – but has ruled out answering an SOS call for England.

Lawes, who has featured in the last five Lions Tests across the last two tours, including starting all three of the Tests in the back row against South Africa on the 2021 tour, appeared to call time on his international career following England’s third-place finish in the World Cup in France last month.

But while the 34-year-old ruled out a swift return for his national side, despite Steve Borthwick facing a deepening back-row injury crisis ahead of the start of the Six Nations next February, the former England captain said he would make himself available for the Lions.

“If I got another Lions call, I would probably do that, yeah,” said Lawes, who won 105 caps for England. “It is two years away and because it is in Australia I would definitely bring them (his family) out for the whole trip. But I might not be playing rugby then, who knows? We will see what happens.

“Playing for England is special to me as well, but playing for England you are at home for two months, then you are away for two months, then you are home, and you never really get a chance to settle in and create any structure in your life for you and your kids. A Lions tour is once every four years and it is just a different occasion. If I was to go on it, I would definitely bring the family out for the whole time.”

There is a precedent here, with both Neil Back and Lawrence Dallaglio coming out of international retirement to play for the Lions on the tour of New Zealand in 2005. Lawes would be 36 by the time of the eight-game tour to Australia, the same age as Back was in New Zealand.

“I can’t imagine with the amount of good backrowers we have got now in Great Britain and Ireland I would get on the tour anyway in two years’ time,” added Lawes, who is yet to decide his future at Northampton Saints, with his current contract set to expire at the end of the season.

“You don’t really know, I won’t be playing internationally, but through some kind of fluke I did get the call I would probably go.

“I would get to complete the set, I have done two (New Zealand 2017 and South Africa 2021) and doing Australia, which is one of my favourite places to tour, would be cool.”

Lawes was in impressive form for Northampton in their high-scoring victory over Harlequins on Friday night. But despite a mounting England back-row injury list that now includes his club captain Lewis Ludlam, who went for a scan on Tuesday on an ankle injury, along with Tom Curry, who is out for the season, Ben Earl, who is not expected to return to action until mid-January and concerns over Tom Willis, George Martin and Ted Hill, he insists his England career is over.

“I would have to get the call first,” he added, with a smile. “No, I am done to be honest. I didn’t stop playing internationally because I thought I couldn’t play or couldn’t get in the team, I stopped playing because I needed to be here for my family.

“I want to be here for my little ones and that hasn’t changed. I know the back row might have changed a bit but that hasn’t changed. It is my luck we have got a back row crisis when I am actually fit because normally, I am part of the back row crisis. I have hung up the old boots.

“My wife did an unbelievable job, as she always does. They are 10, eight and we have got twins who are nearly six so it is all hands on deck. I have got to stick around and make sure I ‘bring them up right’.”

His motivation to continue playing for his club and possibly the Lions however has not diminished.

“I have always been pretty consistent, but I am a competitive guy, so if I am going to do something, I want to be the best,” he added. “I’ll always be like that and I don’t feel like I am performing as well as I’d like to at the moment. I’ll give myself a little kick up the arse.

“It takes time to adapt back into club life, and a very different way of playing rugby, so I should kick on, hopefully. We have got some great players here. If we can work on our discipline, make sure our consistency is there so we don’t have games like we had against Leicester, we could have a very good run this year.”