TOP BAR - Fixtures

Lawes and Northampton Saints eager to secure Twickenham return

If all goes to plan, Courtney Lawes can expect plenty of trips to Twickenham this year, but the Northampton Saints lock is determined to add one more game at the national stadium to his schedule.

The 26-year-old England star was this week named in Stuart Lancaster’s 50-man training squad for this year’s World Cup on home soil, with Lawes hoping to secure a starting berth in a competitive second row.

Before turning his attentions to international duties, Lawes faces a tough test to help Saints reach their third consecutive Aviva Premiership Rugby Final by overcoming Saracens in this weekend’s semi-final at Franklin’s Gardens.

After a spell on the sidelines with a shoulder injury, the big-hitting lock returned for the last encounter between the two sides, with Northampton claiming a 25-20 triumph at stadiummk in round 20.

That victory helped Jim Mallinder’s side secure top spot in Aviva Premiership Rugby for the first time in their history, but Lawes admits that feat will count for little should Saints not retain their title.

“It’s the first step towards the World Cup and we’ve still got loads to focus on but it puts your mind to rest to make the 50-man squad,” he said.

“Joe Launchbury has just returned from injury too – he’s a phenomenal player and I really look forward to playing alongside him so hopefully we can get our pairing back together and see our names in the final World Cup squad.

“You can’t take your place for granted in the England second row at the moment but you just do what you can and play as well as you can, train hard and put yourself in contention.

“I think I’ve been pretty good and consistent all season, even coming back from the injury it didn’t take me a long time to get back into the swing of things.

“It was great to make history for the club by finishing top of the Premiership but at the same time we know we’ve got a long way to go.”

Despite only making 11 Aviva Premiership Rugby appearances in a season disrupted by injury and England duty, Lawes also surpassed 150 caps for Northampton, with the lock now targeting the 200 club.

And after being rested for the final-day defeat to rivals Leicester Tigers, Lawes insists he is raring to go against Saracens on Saturday.

“It was nice to have a rest, especially to get one at this time of the year so it was very much appreciated to have the weekend and not worry about putting another big shift in,” he added. “But now the focus is on this weekend.

“I went past 150 appearances for Saints this year, which was a big milestone for me and hopefully I can get into the 200 club before long.

“We’ve got a lot of guys who’ve been here a while and grown up playing together – all the great squads in history play together for a long time.

“We can draw on that and the experience of last year and it’s really driving the squad.”

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