sport

Lawes: Bring on All Blacks

Courtney Lawes will head to New Zealand "brimming with confidence" after helping Northampton to the Aviva Premiership title.

Saints were crowned English champions for the first time following a gripping

24-20 victory over Saracens that was clinched through substitute prop Alex Waller's last-gasp try in extra time.

Few players proved more pivotal to Northampton's cause than England

second-row giant Lawes, who combined hard graft with several of his

trademark tough tackles.

He will have little time to reflect on a domestic campaign that has also yielded the Amlin Challenge Cup but says he is relishing dates with the All Blacks in Dunedin and Hamilton later this month.

"Most of our players who are going to New Zealand produced good individual performances. I'm going to go there brimming with confidence, ready to enjoy

myself," Lawes said.

"It has been a very long year, but it's just two more games, so you've just got to crack on. You will always be up for a Test match - we will fire into them.

"I am going to go out there looking to enjoy myself, get ball in hand and build on this confidence I've got through the season, from being fit and able to play rugby week in, week out."

Resilience

Northampton, last year's beaten Premiership finalists, finished nine points

behind Saracens over the 22-game regular league season, but late try-scoring

exploits against Leicester and Saracens in the competition's knockout phase

underlined their resilience.

"I don't think you can describe it - how important it is - not just for the club, but for the town," Lawes added.

"I think it has been building up to this for some time. We've been a very young side, sometimes a bit rash and with all the talent in the world, but not always making the right decisions at the right times.

"It just shows that we are maturing as a squad and we are able to win these

games in the last minute or the last 20 minutes. It's phenomenal to be part of it. We've still got a lot more to come."