Courtney Lawes talks chances of Lions starting berth in first South Africa Test

Alun Wyn Jones’ unexpected return has created even stiffer competition for a starting Lions spot in their opening Test against South Africa on Saturday, but Courtney Lawes is upbeat about his chances.

It was the Northampton Saints star who came on as a replacement for Jones following that nightmarish shoulder injury mere minutes into their opening tour win against Japan.

Lawes earned both of his British and Irish Lions Test caps to date as a replacement on the 2017 tour of New Zealand, but he’s targeting a place in the starting XV against the Springboks.

The 32-year-old—who can play at second row or blindside flanker—told the Daily Mail he’s done all he can to win a place in head coach Warren Gatland’s plans: “I’m all right. There’s not much you can do about it, so you’ve just got to enjoy the moment.

“I’ve gone quite well. I knew what the coaches were looking for from me and I’ve delivered that, so that’s all I can do. There are other players who will do their thing, too, then it’s up to the coaches.”

Tour captain Jones is a particular threat to his chances of a first Lions start, having recently completed a miracle comeback to fitness after it seemed his summer was over.

The Wales icon came on to play 27 minutes in Saturday’s final warm-up fixture against the Stormers, where locks Adam Beard and Jonny Hill each impressed with first-half tries.

Lawes could fit into the No. 6 jersey, although displacing Ireland’s Tadhg Beirne or Scottish openside Hamish Watson may prove futile following their fierce form in the back row.

But 87-cap England veteran Lawes remains hopeful, underlining how significant a moment it would be in his career to start a Lions Test match: “It would mean a great deal.

“That’s the goal. I want a starting shirt and I made that very clear from before we even got out here.

“I’ve done everything I can, I’ve prepared as well as I can and I’ve thrown myself into it. I’ve just got to wait and see now.”

Lawes has failed to feature in either of the last two ‘friendly’ outings against the Stormers of South Africa ‘A’, with Gatland naming two entirely different packs for each of those fixtures.

The head coach and his assistants held one of their final selection meetings on Sunday evening, with the team for Saturday scheduled to be named on Thursday morning.

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