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Courtney Lawes to retire from England duty when Rugby World Cup ends

Test centurion Courtney Lawes will retire from England duty following the Rugby World Cup.

The 34-year-old’s bid to finish his international career on a high was cruelly ended by Saturday’s heartbreaking 16-15 semi-final loss to South Africa in Paris.

Vice-captain Lawes is a veteran of four World Cups, two British and Irish Lions tours and one of only five Englishmen to be capped 100 times.

Steve Borthwick’s side will return home from France following Friday evening’s bronze-medal match against pool-stage opponents Argentina.

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Lawes, who has made 105 international appearances across 15 years, said: “I haven’t told Steve yet! But I will let him know.

“I’ve said to the boys, anyone that’s asked. I think it’s time. I’ve done four World Cups, so I’m pretty happy with that.

“It’s a bit of an end of an era, but it’s been a real honour for me to represent England for so long. It flies by.

Courtney Lawes and England suffered a painful World Cup exit
Courtney Lawes and England suffered a painful World Cup exit (David Davies/PA)

“I’m proud of the journey I’ve been on. It’s not always been the ups. Plenty of downs in there, but I’ve pushed through.

“I’m not an emotional person really, but it’s just been a huge honour for me.

“To be able to finish with this group, it’s something I’ll treasure forever.”

England travelled to the World Cup in poor form and with many pundits dismissive of their prospects.

But they came agonisingly close to reaching a second successive final after leading the reigning champions for all but five minutes of an enthralling last-four encounter which was settled by Handre Pollard’s late penalty.

“It’s one of those where we thought we had it, but let it slip away at the same time,” said Lawes.

“But we’ve proved a lot of people wrong. You give it all you’ve got. It’s sport, isn’t it?

“That’s what it means at the highest level. You get a couple of things wrong and get punished.

Courtney Lawes made his England debut in 2009
Courtney Lawes made his England debut in 2009 (Steve Parsons/PA)

“But a lot of people thought we’d have struggled, and in the end we were unlucky to lose.”

Lawes made his England debut against Australia in 2009 when head coach Borthwick was team captain.

The flanker was a beaten finalist against the Springboks in 2019 and also played in the 2011 and 2015 tournaments, in addition to representing the Lions in 2017 and 2021.

He believes England have a bright future under Borthwick and is determined to sign off by helping the team finish third.

“We showed to everyone what it means to play for this team,” said Lawes. “Play for your country and the boys alongside you.

“I think people can see now what a good coach he is – and where this team can really go.

“We want to finish on a high. It’s important for us to finish properly and send us all off on a good win.”

Father-of-four Lawes joined World Cup-winning prop Jason Leonard and international team-mates Ben Youngs, Owen Farrell and Dan Cole on a select list of England centurions in August by captaining his country in a shock warm-up defeat to Fiji at Twickenham.

Reigning champions South Africa condemned England to an agonising World Cup exit
Reigning champions South Africa condemned England to an agonising World Cup exit (David Davies/PA)

He waved to fans at Stade de France following England’s dramatic elimination and intends to spend more time with his children while continuing to playing for Northampton.

“The kids are at that age where they need their dad around,” he said.

“It will be good to be with them more, to provide some well-needed structure to the mob.

“As hard as it is being away from your family, you almost have another family.

England v South Africa – Rugby World Cup 2023 – Semi Final – Stade De France
Courtney Lawes, not pictured, believes England have a bright future under head coach Steve Borthwick (Mike Egerton/PA)

“You really feel like that, especially when you’re away in camps like World Cup camps. It’s five months, staying with your brothers.

“I’ll definitely miss the boys, the banter and all the stuff we get up to when we’re not training. I’ll miss the hard work as well.

“And I’ll definitely miss pulling the jersey on and giving it everything.”