COURTNEY Lawes has built a reputation as a tough tackling and fearsome opponent, but the Northampton Saints lock insists it is the friendly atmosphere that new fans coming to an Aviva Premiership Rugby game for the first time will be blown away by.
Ever since arriving on the scene with Saints, Lawes has made a name for himself for delivering some of the biggest hits in Aviva Premiership Rugby history.
At six foot five inches and weighing just shy of 19 stone, on the pitch the 26-year-old is one of the most intimidating players in the English game.
But off it Lawes is a welcoming host and that is exactly what he believes Franklin’s Gardens to be as he urges as many new faces to come down and check it out for themselves as possible.
"Aviva Premiership Rugby is just a good atmosphere, it is friendly, you sit with the opposition fans and there is none of that kind of animosity between fans," said Lawes, who’s interview was part of a new campaign from Premiership Rugby and Aviva to welcome new supporters to Aviva Premiership Rugby this season.
"Everyone is just there to watch a good game of rugby and that is often what it is at Franklin’s Gardens.
"The crowd are amazing and I guarantee people coming along will enjoy themselves."
And Lawes’ tough tackling is not just for show as he helped Northampton Saints lift their first ever Aviva Premiership Rugby title in 2014 – an experience that the second rower admits will live long in his memory.
"You can’t really describe winning the Aviva Premiership Rugby title," he added. "Not many people get to do it and get that kind of privilege and some go their whole careers and never get to win a Premiership title so it is quite hard to describe.
"But it is just a great feeling and something nobody can ever take away from you which is quite rare and very good.
"The first game I played was for Northampton School for Boys. I can’t remember the school we played against but I was about 13 or 14 and I really enjoyed myself.
"I was starting on the bench because I didn’t have a clue what I was doing but I came on in the back row.
"My first Aviva Premiership Rugby game was against Harlequins. It was away and we lost but it was a brilliant first experience because I had played a few games before that but that was in the Championship."
The Aviva Premiership Rugby First Timers campaign will give away almost 2,000 free tickets for every game in the first seven rounds of Aviva Premiership Rugby matches, from the start of the season right up to Christmas. Saints fans are encourage to tell their friends and family who have never been to a game to visit www.premiershiprugby.com/avivafirsttimers now to apply for a free pair of tickets.