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Tuesday Apr 16, 2024

Courtney Lawes weighs in on Bulls 'disrespectful' Champions Cup approach

England and Northampton Saints legend Courtney Lawes knows what it takes to be successful in the Investec Champions Cup.

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As a member of the Saints 2011 team that looked to be home and dry against Leinster before a furious Johnny Sexton-driven comeback secured the Irish giants the title, Lawes knows how tough the competition becomes in the knockout stages.

Thus, when South African URC outfit the Vodacom Bulls opted to send a heavily rotated squad for their clash with the Saints in last weekend’s quarterfinals, it was met with some heavy criticism.

Citing travel as the main contributing factor, Bulls boss Jake White said his team had to travel on eight different flights to get to the match at Franklin’s Gardens.

Speaking to former Scotland international Jim Hamilton, Lawes was asked by the Rugby Pod host what his thoughts were on the Bulls approach.

“My take was it’s a very South African thing to do that whole carnival around it, putting it out in the press about the eight different flights, this and that.

“I guarantee you that it wasn’t eight different flights and the players all probably got there and all very much the same time and maybe the staff got there at a bit of a different time.

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“But I guarantee you that a lot of things there were at least exaggerated, to be honest, and it was a great way of them taking the pressure off themselves and essentially putting it all on us.

“Disrupting us, getting us thinking different things and not quite on the ball and that’s what I was pretty wary of to be honest.”

Delving into the topic deeper, Hamilton asked Lawese if he felt that the Bulls’ decision to rotate players devalued the competition.

“I was pretty disappointed that they didn’t put their best team out,” Lawes said.

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Putting a funny spin on the situation, Lawes went on to describe a back spasm he had the day before the match.

“Then, at about one o’clock, my back went into spasm, like just randomly!

“So I was toast, mate; I was like flipping heck! I don’t even know I am going to be able to play, so at that point, I was thinking, ‘Maybe it’s a good thing they aren’t sending their best team’.” Lawes said with a laugh.

Given the prestige surrounding the Investec Champions Cup and all that goes with it, should the Bulls have prioritised it and sent a stronger team? Or was White right to leave his strongest team at home and focus on the URC? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

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