‘Courtney brings that element of being calm, relaxed and the voice of reason. Whatever he says carries a lot of weight’
Courtney Lawes has been told he is the perfect man to lead England into their World Cup final rematch against South Africa.
Confirmation of who replaces injured Owen Farrell as captain, at Twickenham on Saturday, comes at lunchtime today.
But Tom Curry, like Lawes a vice-captain, insists the Northampton flanker ticks all the boxes on the occasion of his 90th England cap.
“I love Courtney,” said Curry. “I love listening to him, I think he’s brilliant. He leads by example and has a lot of respect within the squad.
“I’m excited the whole time but Courtney brings that element of being calm, relaxed and the voice of reason. Whatever he says carries a lot of weight.”
It was those qualities that persuaded Eddie Jones to hand him the armband against Tonga a fortnight ago when Farrell was first unavailable.
Lawes insists he is “not a very emotional person” yet skippering his country in his 13th year in the team left an indelible mark.
“It was amazing, an unbelievable honour, one I wasn’t sure I’d ever get,” said the 32-year old. “Not many people get to represent their country let alone lead it.
“I was happy just playing and providing what I could for the team but that was a real privilege for me.”
Having won just twice in seven games against the Springboks, for England and the Lions, Lawes knows better than anyone the size of Saturday’s task.
Farrell, Jamie George and Ellis Genge are huge losses at any time but against world champions determined to complete an unbeaten autumn, their combined absence tilts the pendulum away from England.
“We are going to need to be better for sure than we were against Australia,” Lawes acknowledged. “Especially in terms of the penalty count.
“That’s an area we are going to need to clean up. Because (repeat that) against South Africa and we would be in a fair bit of trouble.
“We did not feel like we got through the gears at all last week. We kept Australia in it with sloppy bits around the breakdown. There is stuff we need to fix up.”
Essentially, of course, the challenge posed by the Springboks is the same as it was when Lawes came up against them for the first time in 2010.
Back then the Boks second row was Bakkies Botha and Victor Matfield. If they were known as the Bruise Brothers what on earth should we call 6’9 Lood de Jager and 6’8 Eben Etzebeth?
“I can tell you, without thinking, that the forward battle is going to be the most important thing,” Lawes said.
England are set to rush back Joe Marler from Covid to bring much needed experience to a depleted front row.
In the back line Farrell’s absence should bring Manu Tuilagi in off the wing to midfield alongside Henry Slade.
Marcus Smith, who tied Jonny Hill as England’s top tackler against the Wallabies, will continue at fly-half.