Lawes getting stronger – Mallinder

Published: Saturday 28th February 2015 by The News Editor

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Courtney Lawes needs one more club game before he is ready to return to the England side, according to Northampton director of rugby Jim Mallinder.

The 26-year-old lock returned to action following a 10-week break after an ankle operation with a man-of-the-match display as Northampton beat Harlequins 17-13 at Franklin’s Gardens on Friday evening.

Tries from Samu Manoa, James Wilson and Tom Wood secured a victory that moved the champions 13 points clear at the top of the Aviva Premiership.

“It was a wonderful performance from Courtney after being out of the game for quite a long time,” Mallinder said.

“He seemed to get stronger as the game progressed. In the second half he was making tackles and carrying the ball – I think he has missed it. He loves playing the game and I think we saw that in his performance.

“I don’t think he is far away (from being ready for England) – perhaps one more game for Saints would be good for him.”

Mallinder added: “Quins made it hard for us. They played well. They did a good job on our lineout, so we didn’t get too much tempo or build too many phases in our game.

“Our mauls got us some good tries and we put in a very good defensive display.”

It was Lawes’ 150th appearance for the club, while England boss Stuart Lancaster will also have been pleased to have seen flanker Wood come off the bench after being out since the end of January because of an ankle injury, making his 100th run-out for Northampton.

“We are building the experience in terms of our personnel in the squad. For Courtney to get 150 and Wood 100 appearances is what we want,” Mallinder said.

“We have a squad who enjoy playing for each other. We have a good lead – you would definitely take that at the beginning of the season, but we don’t get anything for being in this position.

“That will quickly be forgotten if we lose a few games and don’t get a home semi-final. We didn’t play brilliantly today – we can do better and we are happy to have that lead.”

Despite suffering their third Premiership defeat in a row, Harlequins director of rugby Conor O’Shea said his side will not give up on reaching the top four.

“We will play every game and we will see where it takes,” he said. “We will keep fighting until mathematically we are out of it.

“We will benefit from this period a lot more than people imagine. We will come out of it a much better side. We just need the little things to go our way.

“You come away from home and the crowd are going to get a good few decisions – you need to be 10 points better when you come away from home. There is no point griping about that.”

Published: Saturday 28th February 2015 by The News Editor

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