"Trophy Would be the Icing on the Cake" - Courtney Lawes Targets Premiership Title Ahead of Northampton Departure - Ruck

“Trophy Would be the Icing on the Cake” – Courtney Lawes Targets Premiership Title Ahead of Northampton Departure

Having been the focal point of many a discussion this week, it’s safe to say the Northampton Saints captain Courtney Lawes will be firmly in the spotlight for Saturday’s Premiership Final against Bath. The 35-year-old is set to leave the Saints after a 17-year run in green, black and gold with his final outing set for centre stage at Twickenham.

Lawes is a certifiable Northampton legend and still has gas in the tank for a new adventure to round off his career. The loose forward is heading to Brive for the 2024/25 French Pro D2 season, and believes that a Premiership title win would be the perfect way to end his Saints career. Lawes called the prospect of bringing Northampton their first league title in 10 years ‘the icing on the cake’, in what would certainly ignite some jubilant celebrations at Franklin’s Gardens.

Courtney Lawes, Captain of Northampton Saints says goodbye to Northampton Saints fans at FranklinÕs Gardens upon his last home game during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby Semi Final match between Northampton Saints and Saracens at cinch Stadium at FranklinÕs Gardens, Northampton on 31 May 2024. – PHOTO: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK

“It would be incredible but to be honest it would probably be the icing on the cake. I think this season has been such a pleasure to be a part of and to have played with these lads. They are developing as players and delivering week in, week out. It’s been fantastic. That really is the most rewarding thing about this season, the fact I’ve been able to stay on the pitch, stay fit, and contribute week in, week out. The trophy would be the icing on the cake.”

Lawes’ tenure with the Saints dates back to 2007, and when the 2013/14 season came about the lock was a steadily established starter. Packing down the engine room alongside Calum Clarke, Lawes was picked to bring his revered intensity from the word go, whilst his current Director of Rugby Phil Dowson had to settle for a replacement appearence against Saracens.

Northampton claimed the 2013/14 Premiership title in dramatic style, as Alex Waller’s extra-time try secured the 24-20 win. Alex Waller and his brother Ethan, are also set to depart Franklin’s Gardens this weekend, with plenty riding on this fixture for the three Saints centurions. Ever the calm head despite the most high stakes of fixtures, Lawes discussed how his big-game experience could benefit his side upon the sold-out stage of Twickenham.

“I’ve had a good few games out there (Twickenham) for England that stick in the memory. For Saints, 2014 was the big one, especially after the disappointment of the year prior against Leicester. This one seems even more special. It feels unique in a lot of ways. It’s going to be an incredible occasion to be a part of.

“I think to some extent this season we’ve leaned on certain players who have been in certain situations previously. I think you have to. That’s part of being a good team. But we’ve kind of had a dress rehearsal for this game I feel in terms of the magnitude of it in that semi-final with Leinster. I really feel that was trial by fire and we understood a lot about ourselves after that game. Hopefully that puts us in really good stead for this weekend.”

Courtney Lawes of Northampton Saints and Head Coach Phil Dowson look on prior to the Gallagher Premiership Rugby match between Northampton Saints and Exeter Chiefs at Franklins Gardens, Northampton on 12 November 2023. – PHOTO: Patrick Khachfe/PPAUK

“I think the fact I went from 0 to 100 England caps at one club is definitely something I’m really proud of. I really wanted to stay here that one extra season to do that. I’ve had two Lions tours and 105 appearances for my country while I’m at the place I’ve grown up. That’s meant a lot to me and also the legacy you leave behind. I might not have reached the peaks of some players but in terms of longevity I think I’d be up there.”

Despite achieving his aforementioned accolades, Lawes’ perfectionist approach to the sport has left him with a seemingly un-scratchable itch as he calls a close to his time with the Saints. Lawes continues to drive himself forward, despite having proven his worthiness of a space upon the Mount Rushmore of Northampton Saints icons.

“I’ve achieved a bit in rugby, ultimately though I’m not where I want to be, and that’s what drives me. I feel like I can still be a better player than I am at the minute and as long as I feel like that I’m going to continue to try to find that.I said recently it’s an un-satisfaction within myself that drives me on and makes me want to compete and be the best player I can possibly be.”

Courtney Lawes, Captain of Northampton Saints during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby Semi Final match between Northampton Saints and Saracens at cinch Stadium at FranklinÕs Gardens, Northampton on 31 May 2024. – PHOTO: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK

“It’s not a thing you can win, it’s just how I perform. I review my games, you pick it apart, figure out what you can do better, hopefully I can deliver a game where I’m like, yeah, I’m happy with that. That’s the plan, part and parcel of the process. You drive yourself to play as well as you can when it matters and if you do that you give yourself a much better likelihood of delivering what you want to deliver, a good performance, a win and a trophy.”

“There’s definitely been performances in my career where I’ve been, yeah, that’s a good performance, but few and far between. I’m quite hard to please. But that’s a healthy thing, a lot of players will be like that, the best players are always looking at what they can do better.”

With the ‘end of an era’ narrative playing on the minds of those that don the green, black and gold, Lawes cast his thoughts back to his first run-out in the famous colours of the East Midlanders. The lock was a fresh faced teenager when he made his senior debut against outfit Esher, and has been able to remember a couple of memories from his maiden Saints cap, some 260 appearances ago.

“I came off the bench, had a few runs down the wing, I was playing in the second row, pretty skinny, but a lot quicker back then than I am now. I didn’t play that long, 20 or 30 minutes, it’s a long time ago now, I don’t remember too much.”

Earlier this week, Northampton Saints Director of Rugby Phil Dowson recalled his first interactions with Courtney, with the pair first locking horns on opposite sides of the pitch. Dowson travelled down to Franklin’s Gardens in 2007 as apart of the Newcastle Falcons squad, and was introuduced to Lawes when the towering lock grabbed him, after Dowson had a heated altercation with former teammate Lee Dixon.

“I don’t remember that at all, to be honest. Little things like that happen all the time and you don’t recollect them. I wonder why he’s held onto that… he’s obviously got a grudge about it! (laughs). It’s part and parcel, what are you going to do? Stand there and let Dicko get beaten up?”

Courtney Lawes, Captain of Northampton Saints leads the team talk during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby Semi Final match between Northampton Saints and Saracens at cinch Stadium at FranklinÕs Gardens, Northampton on 31 May 2024. – PHOTO: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK

Lawes sounded off his final Premiership press conference, by discussing what it would mean to the town of Northampton, should the Premiership title return to the East Midlands. The last time the league title was in the region, it was in the claws of Leicester Tigers after Freddie Burns’ drop goal snatched a late triumph over Saracens in the 2021/22 season.

Now, Lawes has the opportunity to bring the title to Northampton, and despite the outcome the respected Saints stalwart will be proud of how well his side has performed this season.

“It would mean an incredible amount (to the fans). But the thing is, just doing what we’ve been doing all season long should be enough. I know it won’t be, but it is for me, finals are one of those things where you never know what’s going to happen. All we can do is turn up and deliver the best performance we can deliver. But there’s a lot of things that can happen, sometimes you don’t quite end up getting over the line.

“We’ve had a season where we’ve been top of the table pretty much the entire year, that is such an incredible thing to do. The performances the boys have put in, the accolades we’ve generated, the way we’ve held ourselves and the kind of rugby we’ve played is enough for me. It doesn’t mean I’m not going to give it everything I have, but we’ve done ourselves proud regardless.”