Courtney Lawes leads the England Lions’ return to Premiership action after clubs negotiated an early release from their set 10-week rest period after South Africa tour
- Courtney Lawes plays in Northampton on Saturday
- Harlequins have negotiated the return of Marcus Smith on October 8
- Bath calls for winger Anthony Watson to return before October 15
Courtney Lawes will lead the return of English Lions to Premiership action this weekend, after clubs negotiated early release from their set 10-week rest after the tour.
It was intended that English players would not be available until about October 15th after the Lions trip to South Africa.
But several top clubs have called on the Player Performance Management Group – a subcommittee of the Professional Game Board that links the RFU, Premiership Rugby and Rugby Players’ Association – to change that ruling on a case-by-case basis.
Courtney Lawes leads English Lions return to Premiership action this weekend
So Lawes, who started all three Lions Tests but suffered injuries in the 2020-21 season meaning he played just 943 minutes for club and country last season, is already available for selection at Northampton.
Bath is advocating for Anthony Watson to be brought back, and Kyle Sinckler also wants to play for Bristol soon, and Saracens are expected to have some, such as Jamie George who missed all the Tests and returns in two weeks.
Speaking of Lawes, who could join Wales and Lions No 10 Dan Biggar on Saturday for their game against London Irish, Northampton forward coach Sam Vesty said: ‘Courtney hasn’t played many rugby matches, has raced lightly, has had a preseason and is ready to go, and wants to go. Everyone is happy that it is.
‘We collect a lot of data about players’ GPS, days off and the like. There’s no point in keeping all that and when it comes to decisions around players, you treat them all the same.
Bath calls for Lions winger Anthony Watson to return before October 15
“Common sense has triumphed.”
Bath boss Stuart Hooper hopes Watson Lawes can follow soon.
“It’s not me with a big stick saying ‘you have to play for Bath’, it’s Anthony coming knocking on my door and saying ‘when can I play for Bath?’ he added.
“I’d like to think it’s resolved. Players don’t have an off-season in which they have five weeks off and do nothing, they want to get back in the jersey.’
It is clear that Tom Curry will return for Sale’s Friday night clash with Harlequins on October 15, and Quins himself has already negotiated that Marcus Smith will play against Bristol on October 8, as he has not played in Lions Tests. Exeter’s Sam Simmonds is expected on October 9.
Celtic Premiership Lions Rory Sutherland, Duhan van der Merwe, Stuart Hogg, Chris Harris, Louis Rees-Zammit and Taulupe Faletau are available for selection, but the final Welsh pair are not expected to be seen for a few more weeks.
Marcus Smith has already been cleared to return for Harlequins on October 8th