Courtney Lawes will make his England return in Saturday’s RBS 6 Nations clash with Scotland emboldened by a glowing reference from forwards coach Graham Rowntree.
Lawes is set to replace George Kruis in the engine room as the red rose reinforce a challenge for the title that was dealt a potentially fatal setback with their chastening 19-9 defeat in Ireland.
Having recovered from the ankle surgery that forced him to miss the start of the Championship and proved his fitness during two matches for Northampton, the 26-year-old will reprise a second row partnership with Dave Attwood last seen during the autumn.
And Rowntree believes England will benefit from his range of attributes when they seek a reaction to their subdued afternoon in Dublin.
“Courtney is a special player. He’s really maturing as a player and as a person. You can’t hide what he can bring to us physically,” said Rowntree ahead of Wednesday afternoon’s team announcement.
“I’ve watched his last two games for Northampton and he’s played well. He’s played exceptionally well for us over the last year and he’s back to his best.
“Courtney is capable of the grunt work and that area of his game has significantly improved.
“We all know what he can do carrying-wise, athletically in defence and at line-out time, but I’m not worried about his lack of work-rate or having to balance him up.”
The inclusion of Lawes is set to be the only adjustment to the pack outmuscled in Dublin, while behind the scrum full-back Mike Brown will return at the expense of Alex Goode having recovered from concussion.
Flanker Tom Wood, who has overcome an ankle complaint, is on course to win a place on the bench in his first appearance of the Championship, profiting from Tom Croft’s shoulder dislocation.
A further adjustment could see Geoff Parling be brought on to the replacements bench as second row cover.
Rowntree has also defended Chris Robshaw following media criticism of England’s captain in response to a below par performance against Ireland.
“I’ve been happy with Chris during this last six months. He did well in the autumn and was outstanding against Wales,” Rowntree said.
“He played well against Italy but did not have his best game in Ireland against a very good outfit in terms of breakdown and set piece. But he was not the only player who didn’t have his best game.
“We have had some frank reviews and I’m sure we will have a reaction from Chris this weekend.”
Robshaw has urged his team-mates to ensure they enter their looming home World Cup with a five match unbeaten record at Twickenham by dispatching Scotland and France in their remaining games of the Six Nations.
“We want to finish the series well so winning these two games is the step we need to take,” Robshaw said.