Injured Lawes on course to start Saints season

SIDELINED - Courtney Lawes, with his injured elbow in a sling, had to watch on as his team-mates were put through their fitness paces yesterday

SIDELINED - Courtney Lawes, with his injured elbow in a sling, had to watch on as his team-mates were put through their fitness paces yesterday

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SAINTS performance director Nick Johnston says Courtney Lawes is ‘in very good shape’ as the lock looks to be fit for the start of the new season.

Lawes, who has played only two games for his club in 2012 after knee and shin injuries saw him sidelined for the second half of last season, had surgery on his elbow on Tuesday.

The 23-year-old was consigned to a watching brief as his Saints team-mates were put through their paces at a military training camp at RAF Honington on Thursday.

But Johnston is optimistic Lawes can be ready for the Aviva Premiership opening-day clash against Gloucester on September 1.

And the fitness guru is adamant the player’s stamina won’t be an issue as he aims to make a quick return from his latest injury setback.

“He’s rehabbing well,” said Johnston. “He’s going well and we hope to have him fit for the start of the season.

“He has had a big pre-season so we’re not to worry about that. Courtney physically is in very good shape, in terms of being physically fit, his running fitness.

“He’s progressing well and our plan was never to rush Courtney back because of the nature of his original injury. We’re trying to build him up for the start of the season.

“We’ve spent a lot of time getting him to where he is and we will continue to do that with Courtney.

“He’s going well at the moment, he’s been good to have around, he’s been mixing protein shakes, he’s been doing his fitness early with the guys in the morning and he’s been a key team member here because he’s a really good lad.”

Johnston is notorious for putting the Saints players through the ringer in pre-season - and this year has been no exception.

The facial expressions said it all on Thursday as the squad were forced to endure a series of lifting and carrying tasks at the rainy RAF base.

And Johnston, who is now in his fifth year at Northampton, believes the tough preparations are essential as Saints bid to end their quest for major silverware this season.

“This group has worked hard,” he said. “We sat down with them at the beginning and I wouldn’t say we changed some things but we just said our expectation’s more. We don’t want to lose semi-finals, finals, we want to win things.

“Collectively, the management, the lads and the support staff, we’ve gone about it with our heads to the grindstone and asked everyone to be accountable, responsible and disciplined, and they’ve responded really well.”