Lawes wrestling with ring return but ready to make up for lost time on the pitch
18:44 GMT, 27 September 2012
Courtney Lawes is still grimacing at the memory of his short-lived title at Northampton this summer for being 'King of the Ring'.
The 6ft 5in England forward makes his first home start on Friday, against Wasps, after almost nine months of injury. He hurt a knee on New Year's Eve, cracked a shin bone in February and was on the way to recovery when he dislocated an elbow wrestling team-mates during pre-season training.
Lawes says he has learned to be philosophical over injuries, but the wrestling incident leaves the 23-year-old shaking his head.
Boost: Courtney Lawes back in action for Northampton last Saturday
'Now that was frustrating. We do 'King of the Ring' at the club, so you have to stay in if you win. I had won three bouts and I was just knackered.
'It all ended terribly wrong. You have to try. I was pushing myself to the limit and it all went a bit wrong.
'It’s hard to say (whether he will wrestle again) after you’ve had quite a bad injury like that.
'But it’s something we do in pre-season so it will be more than a year before I do it again – I don’t know yet.’
No go: Lawes is unlikely to play for England in the Autumn internationals following his injury
Lawes, who missed England’s summer tour to South Africa, spent some of his recovery time having a further tattoo completed on his left calf to go alongside those across his upper body.
'They are lucky,' he insists about the tattoos depicting Maori tribal markings and Japanese koi carp.
He is not the first leading player to be injured wrestling. Last summer, Leicester’s Ben Youngs damaged a knee in the run up to England’s World Cup campaign.
Such injuries have led to some coaches banning wrestling, but Northampton’s director of rugby Jim Mallinder remains among those who believe training injuries are a fact of life in professional rugby.
'Wrestling is a fantastic way of getting players conditioned during pre-season rather than having players involved in bone-on-bone hard collisions. They get plenty of those in the season from playing.
'It does have that element of injury, but we think it’s worthwhile and will keep doing it. It’s unfortunate, but if you are precautionary then you wouldn’t do a lot of things we do.'
Lawes starts on Friday at blindside flanker rather than lock where he has played most for England.
‘I do enjoy the fact that I can play in different places. But No 6 is where I prefer as I can get lot more space there. ‘There are a lot of good players for that position though, so I suppose I get put at lock because I’m so tall.’
For the moment, thoughts of England’s autumn internationals are on hold.
‘I have to play well for Northampton first and that’s what I’m concentrating on,’ he vows.