Courtney Lawes has revealed his shock at making Warren Gatland’s 37-man British and Irish Lions squad – then quickly pledged to be fighting fit in time for the South Africa tour.
Lawes was training with Northampton when rugby director Chris Boyd stopped the session, and told the entire Saints squad that the England back-five forward and Wales fly-half Dan Biggar had both won Lions places.
The 32-year-old admitted he had not received a ‘save the date’ email from Lions staff teeing up selection, leading him to put aside any thoughts of making the touring squad.
But after winning selection, the 87-cap back-five forward insisted he will be fully past his recent pectoral injury in good time for the tour.
“I was pretty surprised, I just didn’t really have any clue,” said Lawes.
“Some players got emails and things like that, but I didn’t get an email. I didn’t last time either, so I was pretty much in the dark and waiting to see if I would get a shot basically.
“And obviously not being fit at the minute I thought my chances were quite slim, but I’m very grateful for the opportunity.
“I don’t think I really worried about it too much. I kind of guessed I didn’t get an email either because I’m in the team, or because I’m nowhere near the team! So I just didn’t really worry too much about it.
“We were out training, then Boydy pulled us all in and let everybody know that me and Biggs were in the team. It was very cool. I’m glad I was in because it would have been awkward if Biggs was in and I wasn’t!”
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Lawes’ Six Nations was cut short by a pectoral injury in March, and now the hard-hitting forward revealed he is closing in on a comeback.
“I’m only a couple of weeks away from being fit now, two or three weeks, so I’ll get a bit of game time before the end of the season, which is great,” said Lawes.
“And luckily due to experience I’ve been able to come back and pick up where “I’ve left off from the last couple of injuries, so hopefully I’ll continue that and I feel like I’ll be able to.
“And in terms of the tour, I think it’s going to be great, obviously it’s going to be very, very different, with all of the Covid stuff going on.
“But I think we’ll just climb into it and work hard. Hopefully the best players on the best form will be picked for the Tests. And I’m looking forward to hopefully putting my name forward.”
The Lions will take on Japan in Edinburgh on June 26 before heading out for eight matches in South Africa, with the three-Test series against the world champion Springboks starting on July 24.
Lawes’ Northampton team-mate Biggar’s inclusion means the Lions will have three fly-halves on tour, with Scotland’s Finn Russell and England’s Owen Farrell also making the cut.
Farrell could easily operate at inside centre though, in a role he filled under Gatland during the drawn Test series with New Zealand in 2017.
Biggar has been in fine form in recent months, and Lawes believes the 31-year-old has a strong case to start in the Test matches.
“Yeah of course he has a chance to start the Tests,” said Lawes.
“And it will be an interesting battle between him and Finn Russell because they are both on great form, and they are quite different 10s. And it will be very interesting to see who gets picked and what kind of form they are on in a Lions shirt. But he’s got a hell of a shot at starting in the Tests.”