Northampton Saints lock Courtney Lawes believes the constant threat of losing your England place will help – not hinder – his country’s World Cup chances.
Stuart Lancaster’s decision to axe Bath Rugby’s George Ford in favour of Saracens fly-half Owen Farrell for Saturday’s crucial game with Wales has surprised many.
But Lawes stresses that everyone in the England team could lose their spot in the starting XV at any time and knowing that ensures high standards are maintained.
Lawes will again be partnered in the second row by new Exeter Chiefs signing Geoff Parling but hot on their heels is Wasps’ Joe Launchbury, who himself looked likely to start the World Cup as first choice before England’s performance against France in a warm-up fixture.
Lawes said: “The boys were unbelievable off the bench last week and we really needed them, so it is fantastic.
“It is good to have competition in your areas because even in this competition, your spot is not sealed and you could be out of the team if you do not perform.
“That is the kind of pressure you need in these games. You need to put it all on the line.”
Lawes has made 41 appearances for England and was a replacement in the World Cup quarter-final defeat to France four years ago
The 26-year-old has also played in European and Aviva Premiership Rugby finals for the Saints, but claimed:
“This game will probably be my biggest game to date, but I have had plenty of big games and I’m full prepared for it.
“For me it is about sticking to my processes and what I need to do and not getting carried away in the moment and hype of it all.”
England are in the ‘Pool of Death’ and one of Wales, Australia and Lancaster’s men will not qualify from the group stages.
That has only added importance to what was always likely to be one of the most eagerly-anticipated games at this year’s World Cup.
Lawes added: “It is always a big test against Wales and despite the niggles or whatever they have, they will come out firing. They have a great team and a good coach [in Warren Gatland] and they will come for a battle.
“I’m sure it will be a good spectacle at the weekend. Wales are a very good team who will be well-drilled.
“We have done everything we can to prepare for this game and it is now about putting it into affect and it is about going through the same processes at game time.”