Lawes ready for 'perfect' Saints send-off

Courtney Lawes
Courtney Lawes made his Northampton Saints debut in 2007 [Getty Images]

Ex-England flanker Courtney Lawes says he "couldn't picture a better way" of finishing his Northampton Saints career than playing in a Premiership final against Bath at Twickenham on Saturday.

The 35-year-old has made 282 appearances over 17 seasons at Franklin's Gardens, but will play his final game for the club on Saturday before joining French club Brive next season.

Saints narrowly defeated defending champions Saracens at home in the Premiership semi-finals last weekend, and head into the final as favourites after topping the table during the regular domestic season.

"With it being a really high pressured situation you have to worry about enjoying it more than putting pressure on yourself," Lawes told BBC's Rugby Union Weekly.

"[You want to] really embrace the week as this is why you play rugby. These are the situations you want to be in, you want to be in these scenarios even though you have a mountain of pressure.

"It's perfect [playing at a packed Twickenham]. I couldn’t picture a better way to finish."

Northampton's victory over Saracens meant they reached their first final since 2014 - when they won their only Premiership title.

Lawes, who retired from international rugby with 105 caps after the World Cup in France last autumn, played in that final victory over Sarries.

"You want to enjoy these weeks as they don't come around very often," Lawes added.

"It is just about going out there and doing what we've been doing all season. We have such a good team that is working well together and is so cohesive.

"We've grown throughout the season and proven to ourselves over and over again that we don't need to have a 10/10 performance or do anything out of the ordinary."

'When I feel I'm not getting better at rugby, I'll retire'

Since Lawes announced his retirement from England duty, the flanker has hit some of his career-best form.

Lawes, who has been on two British and Irish Lions tours, previously said he would consider touring one final time with the Lions if he is still playing come 2025.

However, the immediate focus remains on winning a second Premiership title and to add to his three Six Nations titles that he won under former England coach Eddie Jones.

"I don't think I will ever feel I have got where I want to get in rugby, but that is part and parcel of why I have been able to play at a decent standard," the ex-England flanker added.

"I am proud in a lot of ways but I am always pushing and I am always unsatisfied, but I am proud and grateful for the amount of games I have had.

"The moment I feel I am not getting better at rugby is the moment I will retire. I don't know if I can get better now but I am going to try."

Saints 'prepared' for Russell magic

On Saturday Bath will appear in their first Premiership final for nine years, after an impressive semi-final victory over Sale Sharks at the Recreation Ground.

Scotland fly-half Finn Russell has helped transform Johann van Graan's side's attack this season, but Lawes is confident Saints are "prepared" for whatever Russell will bring.

"A lot of teams go after him thinking they are going to rattle him, but he is such a good player now you can end up doing the opposite," Lawes said.

"Regardless if we win or not, it is a final and anything can happen.

"We are going to go out there and give it all we have got, I will be proud regardless of what happens.

"I will be leaving the club in an unbelievable spot."