Courtney Lawes ready to run ‘blood to water’ one last time at Franklin’s Gardens

Courtney Lawes says he will “treasure forever” his 17 years as a Northampton player as he prepares for an emotional Franklin’s Gardens farewell.

Lawes’ final home game on Friday could hardly be a bigger one – a Gallagher Premiership play-off against reigning champions Saracens.

The 35-year-old has made more than 280 Saints appearances during a stellar career that also saw him win 105 England caps, play in four World Cups and tour twice with the British and Irish Lions.

Lawes will head to French club Brive this summer, but he could bow out in style, with Northampton just two wins away from a first Premiership title since 2014.

“It is mad that it has come round this quickly, but I think I can reflect on it post-game and when the job is done,” said Lawes, who will captain Saints in the play-off clash.

“I want to go out there and enjoy it, go out there and do what I have always done, which is to run my blood to water and give it everything I have. I fully intend to do that.

“I wouldn’t say I am a very emotional person generally, but running out for this game will definitely be up there in terms of emotion and being grateful for the opportunity I have had to play for such a great club for so long.

“Being able to achieve what I have in the shirt is certainly something I will treasure forever.”

Lawes was brought up within a stone’s throw of Franklin’s Gardens, and the all-action flanker will depart Northampton as arguably Saints’ greatest player.

“Essentially, I am representing the people that I grew up with, the places I grew up in, and I don’t take that lightly,” he added.

“I understand that I don’t just represent myself, I represent everything I have been through in my life and the effort other people have also put into myself.

Courtney Lawes
Courtney Lawes is set for his final game at Franklin’s Gardens (Robbie Stephenson/PA)

“I grew up round here, literally on these streets, it is like a two-minute walk down the road (from Franklins Gardens).

“It was before England won the (2003) World Cup, I must have been about 12 or 13, when I first went to the ground. It was with my Uncle Pete.

“I didn’t really have a clue what rugby was to be honest. It was only because it was right down the road and he was a big fan. I didn’t even start playing it until a couple of years afterwards.”

Lawes, who hopes for a Twickenham send-off against Bath or Sale on June 8, believes he will leave behind an English game in rude health.

“This year has been so good for the sport of rugby – the Premiership especially, with it being so tight from one to eight. Anybody could have been in the top four,” he said.

“Not only that, we have done much better as English clubs than people thought we would do in Europe and we are playing some outstanding rugby, rugby that people really want to come and watch.

“We have taken a really big step in the right direction, and hopefully that continues in the summer with the England team and they can go out there (New Zealand) and perform really well.

“This season has been a really, really big step in the right direction in terms of on-field stuff.”