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Six Nations 2012
Lawes eyes return against Italy
Tom Hamilton
January 18, 2012
England's Courtney Lawes limbers up in training, The Trusts Stadium, Auckland, New Zealand, September 28, 2011
Courtney Lawes is currently struggling with a knee injury © Getty Images
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Players/Officials: Courtney Lawes
Tournaments/Tours: Six Nations
Teams: England

England lock Courtney Lawes hopes to be fit for the second match of the Six Nations and is enjoying the new-found optimism experienced under Stuart Lancaster.

The Northampton second-row sustained a knee injury against Newcastle on New Year's Day but with England kick-starting their resurgence under Lancaster against Scotland on February 4, Lawes has targeted their second match of the tournament on February 11 versus Italy as a realistic date for his comeback with a club game potentially the weekend before teed up as the perfect chance to prove his fitness. But with England hopeful of a renaissance under Lancaster and new coach Andy Farrell, Lawes will be working with one of the men who took charge during the World Cup.

Former Tigers prop Graham Rowntree escaped from the tarnished campaign with his reputation intact and Lawes claims he is a loved figure within the England camp. "He was a top player and a good coach," Lawes told ESPNscrum. "He knows how to hand on his experiences to the players and that is why he is so loved and why he is still coaching England.

"He's been given a much bigger role this time around. During the World Cup he was just in control of the scrum and this time he is in control of the whole forwards pack."

Lawes was named in the Saxons squad back in 2009 by Stuart Lancaster but was immediately fast-tracked to the senior squad for the autumn Tests. And he is excited about the fresh faces in the 32-man squad for the forthcoming battle for Northern Hemisphere supremacy.

"I met Stuart Lancaster a couple of years ago when I got selected for the Saxons but am yet to meet Andy Farrell," Lawes said. "I didn't play for the Saxons that year as I was fast-tracked straight into the England team but it was a side back then which included the likes of Chris Robshaw so it is good to see those boys named alongside me for the Six Nations in what is a strong team with some young players so it's looking promising."

With the England captaincy debate still raging, Lawes' Saints team-mates Dylan Hartley and Tom Wood were both put forward by Lancaster as potential candidates to wear the skipper's armband. And while Lawes is focused solely on his own game, he admits Hartley has impressed him as captain in the past.

"Dylan's our skipper at the Saints so he does a brilliant job there but I'm not too fussed who's captain as I just stick to my game and whoever leads leads," Lawes said. "But Dylan manages to combine both aspects of captaincy as he leads by example but knows when to make some good points on the field."

The RFU announced on Tuesday their deal with Lucozade Sport and Maximuscle, part of the Maxinutrition portfolio, which sees them become Official Hydration and Sports Nutrition partners respectively. For more information go to http://www.maximuscle.com/general/courtney-lawes

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Tom Hamilton is the Assistant Editor of ESPNscrum.
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