Courtney Lawes: England vice-captain worried if his body would reach 100 caps

Courtney Lawes in a driving maul against Ireland
Courtney Lawes made only his second start this year for England against Ireland last weekend

Summer Series: England v Fiji

Venue: Twickenham Stadium Date: Saturday, 26 August Kick-off: 15:15 BST

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Courtney Lawes will make his 100th England appearance against Fiji on Saturday but says he questioned whether his body could reach the milestone.

The flanker reached 96 caps in 2022 but multiple injuries last season prevented him from hitting the century.

The 34-year-old will be captain at Twickenham with Owen Farrell banned.

"Three or four injuries in the one season, when you are getting on a bit, [make] you wonder if your body has had it," Lawes told BBC Sport.

"I knew I was going to find out if my body could get there. That is what I put my mind to and fortunately I got a good pre-season under my belt which is often where I find myself the most durable."

The England vice-captain was in line to hit 100 caps during the Six Nations, but a calf injury kept him out of the start of the campaign, and he was ruled out of the final two games due to a shoulder problem.

This was after a concussion ruled the flanker out of the autumn internationals in a period where luck was not on his side.

Lawes, who has spent his entire club career at Northampton Saints, is now in line to become only the fifth England men's player to hit the milestone.

"Not a lot of people get to experience this type of thing and I feel very privileged and honoured," Lawes said.

"It is pretty surreal at the minute. From this last little block it has come round a lot quicker than I thought it would but it has taken a hell of a long time to get here."

Scrum-half Ben Youngs has 124 England caps, retired prop Jason Leonard has 114, while Farrell is on 107. Prop Dan Cole was the most recent player to hit a century of appearances against Ireland in this year's Six Nations.

Courtney Lawes
Lawes made his England debut as a 20-year-old in November 2009

"My mum drove me pretty much everywhere around the country to give me the opportunity to play rugby, which I am extremely thankful for," he added.

"From 24 onwards my wife Jess has been holding the fort and keeping the kids alive so I can go and do what I love.

"Without these people around you, you really can't achieve it."

Lawes will likely remain captain for England's opening World Cup game against Argentina on 9 September with Farrell set to miss the first two pool games.

Mother Val says her son was "quiet as a youngster" but is coming into "his prime" ahead of the World Cup.

"He has good genes! He's just really tough. This achievement is the pinnacle. I might shed a tear, because this one will be special," she said

"It hasn't been an easy time, but [he] seems positive that England will click.."

Head coach Steve Borthwick has only won three games since taking over from Eddie Jones last December, including last weekend's disappointing 29-10 defeat by Ireland in Dublin.

He added: "I will do what I always do and lead from the front. Owen will continue to lead but unfortunately from a position he can not impact the game at the minute.

"We will not give up and we will continue to try and be the best team we can, however we can, so don't give up on us."

'The greatest ever Northampton rugby player'

Former Northampton teammate Phil Dowson, who is now director of rugby at the Saints, says Lawes' presence alone as "has a huge impact" on those around him.

"100 caps for anyone is exceptional. One of our own, who came through our academy, is a fantastic story. He's kept true to himself," Dowson said.

"He's been confident, strong-willed with a desire to improve and get better - to be the very best.

"He is a man of few words, but when he speaks everyone listens. He is unique. There are few like him physically, or off the pitch. He is authentic."

The 34-year-old's first club coach at Northampton Old Scouts RFC, Chris Parr, believes Lawes is "the greatest ever" player to play for Northampton.

"In five years he went from playing no rugby, to playing for England. It was phenomenal, the speed he developed.

"He is the greatest ever Northampton rugby player."