Courtney Lawes. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
England believe the way Courtney Lawes “leads by example” means he is the ideal man to replace Owen Farrell as captain in Saturday’s World Cup final rematch against South Africa at Twickenham.
Farrell has been ruled out because of ankle surgery that threatens the inside back’s availability for the start of the Six Nations.
His absence will see Lawes return to the skipper role he performed during a rout of Tonga two weeks ago, with the blindside flanker set to win his 90th cap.
England coach Eddie Jones has no qualms over having Lawes as his captain now, despite the competing claims of Ben Youngs and Maro Itoje, even if he had once harboured doubts over the 32-year-old Northampton forward’s leadership qualities.
“Courtney wasn’t a leader the first time I laid eyes on him. He was a fairly laconic, laid-back, naturally talented rugby player,” Jones said Thursday.
“And what’s impressed me about Courtney is over the six years that I’ve been involved with him, he still has that personality, but his attitude towards his rugby is far different,” the veteran Australian boss added.
“He is much more diligent in his preparation and is much more of a contributor in a team environment. And hence the responsibility that he has gained for this game.
“He’s a player that people listen to and he not only speaks well but leads by example, so we couldn’t have had a better man to replace Owen Farrell for this game as captain.”
South Africa overwhelmed England 32-12 in the World Cup final in Japan two years ago thanks to a dominant set-piece and kicking game.
England wing Jonny May, one of several Red Rose survivors from that match who will be in action this weekend, is braced for another aerial assault by the Springboks.
“We have confidence in our ability in the air and it’s something we practise hard on,” he said. “It’s a big part of rugby in the Premiership. To be an England player, you need to have that strength.
“If I was to anticipate how South Africa are going to play, they do what they do and they do it even better each week. I can’t see them going away from what they do…They are going to come straight at us, that’s what I expect.”