Saints lock Lawes looks to get back to his best after solving injury problem
If Saints fans thought Courtney Lawes wasn't quite at his bulldozing best last season, then the news that came out during the summer wouldn't have surprised them.
The lofty lock had been nursing an ankle problem for around 18 months, managing it so that he could perform for club and country.
The World Cup and the intense build-up that went with it left Lawes little chance to get himself back to where he wanted to be.
And he continued to play through the pain during the season and into the tour of Australia, where England claimed a stunning series whitewash.
So when this summer came, an opportunity finally presented itself.
Lawes had surgery and is now working his way back to full fitness after a problem that prevented him performing key on-field duties to the best of his abilities.
This season, he will hope he doesn’t have to suffer in silence as he should now be free of the issues that affected him.
And Lawes can’t wait to get stuck into the new campaign, which begins with a home Aviva Premiership clash with Bath on Saturday afternoon.
“I’m looking forward to it,” the 27-year-old said.
“I started to regain some form towards the end of last year.
“I feel like I can really push on this year, injuries permitting.
“If I get a good season under me, a lot of games, I know I can be there where I want to be.
And he added: “It was tough last year. We had a big pre-season with England, then the World Cup and into a full season. It was absolutely crazy.
“It didn’t help me with my ankle injuries and that’s why I missed a lot of games.
“It’s good to be back on a normal schedule and really take your time a little bit.”
Lawes even sacrificed going on his Budapest stag do to have the operation and recover.
Plenty of his team-mates still attended it without him, but he says it was just something he had to give up in the bid to get himself back to full fitness.
“My ankle was really bad for a year and a half and I never had an opportunity to put it right,” he said.
“I got that chance at the end of the season and I sacrificed a little bit in terms of holiday and things like that.
“It is what it is and you’re a professional rugby player so you’ve got to do it.
“Last season, I just had to get on with it, couldn’t train much and it did have an effect on me.
“I just had to crack on, we’re professionals and there are just certain things you’ve got to deal with.”
But Lawes won’t have to deal with that this time round and he can now really relish his increased mobility as he gets around the field and puts in his trademark big hits.
This season, Lawes and Co will be captained by Tom Wood a man with a ferocious work rate, and that will set the standard for everyone at Saints.
“When you’ve got a mad guy like that you’re certainly going to have some fitness in you, so that’s really good for everyone in the squad,” Lawes said.
“He’s brilliant, brilliant for the team, he loves the social side and he loves to work hard.
“You know, 100 per cent, that he will put everything he has into taking the team forward.”
And thankfully for Lawes, he too is now able to put everything he has into the same cause.