Rule of Lawes
Courtney Lawes tells Sky Sports rugby union writer Tony Curtis why he is glad to see the back of 2012...
By Tony Curtis - Follow me on Twitter: @SkysportsTC
Last Updated: 30/01/13 12:30pm
The 23-year-old lock managed just 931 minutes of action for his club Northampton and a further two appearances off the bench for England after a spate of injuries.
The year got off to the worst possible start when he injured his right knee in a 32-14 win over Newcastle.
A return to action saw Lawes promoted to the England squad during the RBS Six Nations - but after coming off the bench against Wales, he was back in the treatment room with 'inflammation of the right tibia'.
Lawes wouldn't play for the Saints again that season, while he was also ruled out of England's summer tour to South Africa.
Worse was to follow for Lawes as he damaged his elbow in pre-season and although he did finally string some games together for his club, he then suffered another setback in October.
Having been on the verge of a return to the England team, Lawes suffered a knee injury - this time the left - 27 minutes into the loss to Saracens.
However, the all-action forward is back to full fitness and raring to go.
"It is definitely back to normal now so it is good to be back playing again," Lawes, who will feature in the behind-the-scenes England rugby show 'O2 Inside Line' during the Six Nations, told Sky Sports.
"I had a really bad 2012 in terms of injuries so it has been good to get 2013 underway so I can crack on."
In his absence, Wasps lock Joe Launchbury has emerged as the bright young star in the England team - winning the man-of-the-series award in the autumn - while Geoff Parling has established himself as a vital cog in the pack. Tom Palmer and Mauritz Botha also remain in the mix, with competition for the second row spots increasing.
And having been limited to cameo appearances in England's games against Wales and New Zealand over the past 12 months, Lawes accepts that he has to work his way back into contention.
"The competition for places is good and helps make you a better a player, however it is frustrating that the competition has come while I was out on the sidelines," admitted Lawes, who is equally effective on the blindside flank as he is in the second row.
"All I can do is get my head down, work hard and crack on.
"Some players have credit in the bank so they are in pole position and rightly so. If you play well in one series it is only right that you get the chance in the next."
It is easy to forget that Lawes is still a youngster because he has been creating headlines for so long. He made his international debut against Australia in 2009 as a replacement - however he has struggled to fully kick on since then.
Injuries and suspension have hampered his progress, with Lawes winning just 15 England caps in total (with nine starts).
Now older and wiser, Lawes is determined to establish himself as a vital member of the squad
"I'm not that old but I have been around a bit now," Lawes admitted. "I've had a stunted growth because of the injuries but I feel that I have a lot to give the team."
Lawes will start Saturday's Six Nations opener against Scotland on the bench but he is determined to make an immediate impact at Twickenham - with England looking to build on their 38-21 victory over New Zealand in December.
"It will be a really tight game," he said. "They have new coaches and it is a fresh start for them. They are sure to come out firing so it is up to us to up our game from New Zealand.
"It is so important to get the tournament off to a good start. You want to start as you mean to go on. For me, it is important that if I get on that I get myself straight into the game."
There has been little to choose between England and Scotland in recent years - with an average winning margin of just four points.
And Lawes claims England are well aware that they will need to keep their cool in the heat of battle.
"Discipline will be crucial," he added. "There are such small margins that we have to be aware that sides will punish penalties. That means it is up to us to put the pressure on sides to give away penalties while not conceding any ourselves."