Courtney Lawes backs Eddie Jones’ vision of creating the ‘greatest team ever’

Courtney Lawes believes England can deliver Eddie Jones’ promise of becoming “the greatest rugby team the world has ever seen”.

Courtney Lawes works out in the gym as England prepare to face France on Sunday. Picture: Getty.
Courtney Lawes works out in the gym as England prepare to face France on Sunday. Picture: Getty.

The highly-experienced Lawes could feature at blindside flanker when Jones names his side today for Sunday’s much-anticipated Six Nations opener against France in Paris.

The French have picked a backline full of pizzazz, including rookie full-back Anthony Bouthier. But Les Bleus’ pack is a much more unfamiliar-looking unit, including tighthead prop Mohamed Haouas on debut, whereas England will rely on the core of forwards who took them to the World Cup final in Japan 
in November.

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The main conjecture ahead of Jones’ team announcement at the Stade Jean Bouin in the west of the French capital this morning is who will start at 
No 8 in place of the injured 
Billy Vunipola.

Sale Sharks flanker Tom Curry was trained in the specifics of the position during the World Cup, and he could combine with Sam Underhill, at openside, and Lawes to keep England’s reshuffle of their back row to a minimum, even if the absence of Vunipola’s bulk means tinkering with the flanker combo of Underhill and Curry that grew rapidly in stature last autumn.

Saracens pair George Kruis and Maro Itoje could form the engine room opposite a big French pack, with Jamie George firing the line-out bullets, and Tom Dunn of Bath is set for a debut from the bench as Exeter hooker Luke Cowan Dickie is expected to be unavailable for family reasons. Lawes’ Northampton clubmate Lewis Ludlam and Saracens’ Ben Earl are alternative choices at the base of the scrum.

England’s back division is also likely to be a case of the World Cup reunited, with Ben Youngs and Willi Heinz sharing scrum-half duty, George Ford, Owen Farrell and Manu Tuilagi in the midfield, and a back three of Anthony Watson, Elliot Daly and 
Jonny May.

Head coach Jones proclaimed his grand dream of all-time greatness when he announced his wider Six Nations squad two 
weeks ago.

The 30-year-old Lawes, who will be winning his 82nd cap for England in just over ten years of national service, said yesterday: “I think we could certainly do that. It’s on us now, on our shoulders if we want to get there – it’s up to us. Eddie will do everything he can and we know that the rest of it is all up to us.

“It’s been discussed among us. Eddie wouldn’t say that if he didn’t believe it and we believe it, we agree with it and we will do everything we can to make that happen.”

Jones gave a partial definition of his terms and conditions to earn the necessary garlands – and it was sustained, memorable rugby rather than more tangible items such as Six Nations Grand Slams or winning a World Cup.

Lawes was asked his opinion of rugby’s best-ever and plumped for the New Zealand team who took back-to-back World Cups in 2011 and 2015.

“I think the Kiwis,” Lawes said. “They are the most dominant team over the last decade. That is what we will be looking to surpass.”

Lawes also explained why he has been commenting on political subjects on social media in recent weeks, arguing that racism is being misunderstood and misappropriated in British current affairs, partly during the debate over the Duchess of Sussex.

“In my politics, I am quite centred,” Lawes said, “and I think I hold the opinions of quite a few people. I don’t think I am that controversial. I just try to say things generally how they are. The only black people you see on TV at the minute are complaining about everything. I don’t feel that way which is why I said what I said.”