Lawes back in England squad

Tue, Nov 27, 2012, 00:00

Rugby:Courtney Lawes has been confirmed in England's 23-man squad for Saturday's QBE international against New Zealand at Twickenham. The Northampton lock, who made his comeback from a knee injury in the Saints' Aviva Premiership win against London Welsh on Saturday, has replaced Mouritz Botha.

The only other change to England's match-day squad from last weekend's 16-15 defeat to South Africa is in the inclusion of uncapped Gloucester outhalf Freddie Burns in place of the injured Toby Flood.

England head coach Stuart Lancaster will confirm his starting XV on Thursday morning but he is expected to make only one change, with Owen Farrell due to replace Flood at fly-half.

"The message is clear - last week we went toe-to-toe with the second best team in the world and felt we should have won," said Lancaster. "Now we have a chance to take on the number one side in front of a passionate Twickenham crowd, who have been fantastic throughout the QBE internationals, and it is a challenge we will meet head on."

Lawes has been plagued by injury for most of 2012. A shin complaint limited him to just one bench appearance in the RBS 6 Nations and ruled him out of the summer tour of South Africa.

The 23-year-old returned to action with Northampton this season but then suffered a knee injury in his final club match before the autumn internationals.

Lawes has been recalled to the England squad primarily as a lock but Lancaster also considers him to be a back-row option, such is the blend of physicality, aggression and athleticism he offers.

When he was head coach, Martin Johnson used to say it was possible to tell a Lawes tackle apart from anyone else's on the training field just by the sound it made.

Lawes has won 14 caps since his debut in the autumn of 2009 but the potential Johnson first spotted is still unfulfilled on the biggest stage.

Lawes is yet to produce his best rugby for England. His most eye-catching performance yet has been for Northampton in a Heineken Cup victory over Munster.

Lancaster believes Lawes - along with the likes of Joe Launchbury, Tom Wood and Dylan Hartley - can help England develop a hard-nosed pack to be feared in the years to come.

Alex Corbisiero is also integral to that, as he proved with a dominant performance against Jannie du Plessis in an impressive international comeback.

The London Irish loosehead prop has not trained with the team yet this week as the England medics manage his return from a knee injury but he is expected to be fit to face the All Blacks.

Gloucester prop Nick Wood, who was called up to fill in for Corbisiero in training, is among 11 players who have been released back to their clubs.

England squad to face New Zealand

Forwards: A Corbisiero (London Irish), D Cole (Leicester), J Haskell (Wasps), J Launchbury (Wasps), C Lawes (Northampton), B Morgan (Gloucester), D Paice (London Irish), G Parling (Leicester), C Robshaw (Harlequins, capt), M Vunipola (Saracens), D Wilson (Bath), T Wood (Northampton), T Youngs (Leicester).

Backs: C Ashton (Saracens), B Barritt (Saracens), M Brown (Harlequins), F Burns (Gloucester), D Care (Harlequins), O Farrell (Saracens), A Goode (Saracens), J Joseph (London Irish), M Tuilagi (Leicester), B Youngs (Leicester).

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