Lawes rules out England return but would play for British & Irish Lions

Courtney Lawes may have retired from international duty with England, but he would play for the British & Irish Lions in Australia in 2025 if asked. The Northampton flanker is one of only five players to have played more than 100 Tests for England, but he is not interested in answering any emergency calls from Steve Borthwick should England’s injury crisis in the back row deepen.

“If, through some kind of fluke, I got another Lions call, I would probably do that,” Lawes said. “But I can’t imagine with the amount of good backrowers we have got in Great Britain & Ireland I would get on the tour anyway.”

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Lawes was on the Lions tours to New Zealand in 2017 and South Africa in 2021, the latter restricted by the Covid pandemic. A third to Australia, to complete the set, would be too much to resist. “It’s two years away, but because it is in Australia I would definitely bring the family out for the whole trip. But I won’t be playing internationally then, so you couldn’t test me on that stage. I might not be playing rugby at all. Who knows? We will see what happens.”

It is commitment to his family that would preclude him from playing for England again. When the current unavailabilities in his position were pointed out to him, he chuckled.

“It is my luck we have got a back‑row crisis when I am actually fit,” he said. “Normally I am part of the back‑row crisis. But I would have to get the call first.

“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 need 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.”

Courtney Lawes playing for England
Lawes has called time on his England career following the World Cup. Photograph: Dave Hunt/AAP

Lawes has a 10-year-old, an eight‑year-old, and twins who are nearly six. An international career of 105 caps has restricted the time he can spend helping to bring them up. “My wife did an unbelievable job [during the World Cup], as she always does. I have got to stick around and make sure I bring them up right.

“Playing for England is special to me, but 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 is just a different occasion.”

Beyond that the 34-year-old Lawes is keeping an open mind. He may accept another contract after his deal at Northampton runs out this season; he may not. “I actually haven’t decided,” he said.

“We have a bit of a break through the Six Nations and a big chunk of rugby now until then. I want to see how the body is, how I am feeling mentally. By then we will probably have offers and whatnot coming in. If I feel like I don’t want to carry on, I will call it a day.”