Kruger hails Saints coach West for turning Lawes into England talisman

TEAM-MATES - Juandre Kruger played alongside Courtney Lawes for Saints (Picture: Linda Dawson)
TEAM-MATES - Juandre Kruger played alongside Courtney Lawes for Saints (Picture: Linda Dawson)

Dorian West has turned Courtney Lawes into England’s Rugby World Cup 2015 tight-five talisman, according to former Northampton lock Juandre Kruger.

Springboks second row Kruger believes England, New Zealand and South Africa are the three favourites to lift the World Cup next year.

The 28-year-old hailed Saints forwards coach West as having the “biggest impact” on Lawes’ burgeoning international career.

Lawes helped Northampton swipe their first Aviva Premiership title in Saturday’s 24-20 victory over Saracens, and should start England’s second Test against the All Blacks on June 14.

Lawes was learning his thumping-tackle trade during Kruger’s Franklin’s Gardens stint between 2008 and 2010 - but the 17-cap Springbok believes his former team-mate will be an England lynchpin next year.

“Dorian West is a great coach, he helped me a lot in my career,” said Racing Metro lock Kruger.

“When I went from Saints back to South Africa, that was the first time I got selected for the Boks, and that had a lot to do with Dorian.

“And Dorian has probably played the biggest impact on Courtney’s career.

“Courtney could have probably moved to any club he wanted, he’s a great lock, but by staying there and being coached by Dorian West, he’s progressed hugely.

“Courtney has always been able to make big hits, but now he times them brilliantly, he picks and chooses the right moments, he’s been more selective and more disciplined.

“Dorian’s a tough coach, who moulds and develops their forwards well, and that’s why Northampton’s got such a respected pack of forwards.”

England ran New Zealand close but wound up losing out 20-15 in the first summer Test in Auckland last weekend, despite missing a host of regulars.

Lawes and the rest of the Premiership finalists from Northampton and Saracens are back in contention for Saturday’s second Test in Dunedin.

Head coach Stuart Lancaster faces several selection dilemmas however, with Leicester’s Geoff Parling impressing at lock in the first Test.

Lancaster has also admitted being tempted to shift wrecking-ball Manu Tuilagi to the wing to accommodate the return of RBS 6 Nations centre duo Billy Twelvetrees and Luther Burrell.

Kruger said pristine decision-making is all that stands between Lawes and reaching world-class second-row status, with “smart choices” a vital commodity against the All Blacks.

“In my time at Saints I was playing with Ignacio Fernandez Lobbe, who played three World Cups with Argentina, and Courtney was the young guy coming off the bench, learning from us,” said Kruger.

“It’s great to see guys like that improve.

“I think he’s always had a lot of potential, he’s a great player and a great character.

“He’ll only go from strength to strength, he’s probably also targeting the World Cup to add substantially to the England team and I’m sure he’ll be able to do that.

“Decision-making is probably the biggest thing about international rugby, because everyone’s big, everyone’s physical, everyone’s got skills, so decision-making is the thing it comes down to and your work-rate.

“Having experienced guys around you, to show composure in games, make sure the right calls come through, those things count massively.

“The All Blacks have a pack that can really move, they have a high work-rate, so if England want to beat them out there they will have to play smart.

“All those things technically and tactically that make up Test match rugby, your set-piece and your accuracy, that’s probably what it’s going to come down to.

“And Courtney will need all that if he is involved.”

Stuart Lancaster has built England’s depth and resolve steadily since assuming the reins full-time in 2012, having impressed in a caretaker role after the 2011 World Cup.

Kruger backed head coach Lancaster to steer England to a successful World Cup on home soil next year.

“England are definitely on an upward curve towards the World Cup,” he said.

“Home ground advantage will be pivotal: I think New Zealand, South Africa and England will probably be the three teams that have the best chance.

“You never know what happens in a World Cup, especially in the early stages, but England definitely go in as one of the top-three favourites.”