Courtney Lawes rules out England retirement U-turn but is open to final Lions tour

Courtney Lawes has quit England duty but still plays for Northampton Saints (Getty Images)
Courtney Lawes has quit England duty but still plays for Northampton Saints (Getty Images)

Courtney Lawes has ruled out answering any England SOS call, cementing his exit from Test rugby.

The 105-cap stalwart immediately declared his impending Test retirement in the hours after the 16-15 World Cup semi-final defeat by South Africa in October.

Lawes did not feature in the third-place play-off win over Argentina, and has now reconfirmed that his Test retirement decision is final.

The Northampton flanker did admit that he could be tempted by any call from the British & Irish Lions for the 2025 tour to Australia – but also conceded that he might not even still be playing by then.

“I didn’t stop playing internationally because I thought I couldn’t play or couldn’t get in the team, I stopped playing because I need to be here for my family,” said father-of-four Lawes.

“I want to be here for my little ones and that hasn’t changed.”

England will be without Tom Curry for the Six Nations, with the Sale flanker to miss the rest of the season after hip surgery.

Ben Earl will face a race against time to be ready for the February 3 opener in Italy after suffering a knee issue.

Zach Mercer is battling back to fitness and remains unlikely to be ready for the start of the tournament, while Jack Willis is now off limits for selection having opted to remain overseas at Toulouse.

Lawes’ retirement, if coupled with injury absences for Curry and Earl, could yet see England start the Six Nations with an entirely changed back row from the starting trio in the World Cup semi-final.

But Lawes insisted no amount of absentees from Steve Borthwick’s side will make him reverse his Test retirement decision.

“It is just my luck that we’ve got a back-row crisis when I am actually fit, because normally I am part of the back-row crisis!” Lawes joked.

“But I have hung up the old boots. If I got another Lions call, I would probably do that. That is two years away, and because it is in Australia, I would definitely bring the family out for the whole trip.

"I’ve done two Lions tours and doing Australia, which is one of my favourite places to tour, would be cool"

Courtney Lawes

“But I might not be playing rugby then, who knows? We will see what happens.”

Lawes revealed the time away from home required to represent England will not now fit in with his family’s needs.

“Playing for England is special to me, but playing for England you’re at home for two months, then you are away for two months, then you are home and you never really get a chance to settle in and create any structure in life for you and your kids.

“A Lions tour is once every four years and it just a different occasion. I can’t imagine, with the amount of good back-rowers we have in Great Britain and Ireland, that I would get on the tour anyway.

“I won’t be playing internationally, and you can’t test me on that stage.

“But if, through some fluke, I did get the call, I would probably go; to complete the set. I’ve done two Lions tours and doing Australia, which is one of my favourite places to tour, would be cool.”