Courtney Lawes credits Eddie Jones for giving his career a second wind as he prepares to joins the ranks of England’s Test centurions.
Lawes leads England into Saturday’s World Cup send-off against Fiji at Twickenham playing for the head coach – Steve Borthwick – who was also his captain when he made his debut against Australia in 2009.
The 34-year-old back row warrior has shown tenacity to overcome a host of significant injuries, but his reinvention from defensive hitman to model blindside flanker was not reward for his efforts alone.
First inspired by Northampton forwards coach Dorian West as he was finding his feet as an 18-year-old second row, it was not until Eddie Jones took charge of England in 2015 that his game evolved again.
Here's the England team to take on Fiji at Twickenham Stadium on Saturday (15:15 BST kick-off)
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“In my early days it was Dorian West who had the biggest impact. I say that begrudgingly because he’ll love that!” Lawes said.
“Dorian was a big influence on me, helping me get that bit of edge and to become a tough player. He really built that into me. Then later on it was definitely Eddie.
“When I stopped progressing as a player he was the one who came in and really gave me the boot to push me on to be the player I could be. And I’m very thankful for that.
“He dropped me first, but then he gave me a couple of ultimatums that I took away and worked at.
“He told me I needed to keep hitting people and I needed to carry better, become the ball-carrier I was when I was younger.
“I just started carrying more and in training I would do a lot more extras with footwork and handling tips out the back.
“I’m not as heavy as the big boys like David Ribbans who is 124kg and can run straight over you.
“I’m not quite that. I like to use a bit of footwork, hit better lines and use the big lads when they are available.”
Lawes will be hoping that his jubilation at becoming the fifth man to win 100 England caps is matched by evidence of improvement in a side that is reeling from four defeats in five matches.
Borthwick’s England have lurched from a disappointing Six Nations to a poor Summer Nations Series and need a morale-boosting win against Fiji ahead of their critical World Cup opener against Argentina on September 9.
Lawes insists squad and management are operating with a unified purpose in the hope of turning the ship around with the players now having more input.
“When you have a coaching staff like we have, you get on board quite quickly with the strategies being put in place,” Lawes said.
“What we have started to do is get the players’ perspective on it and how we can tweak and change it to best suit our strengths.
“We will continue to press on, especially in attack which we have not been good in yet. We really think we will come good.
“The only thing I can really say is the truth, which is we are literally giving absolutely everything we have got to better this team and to become the squad we can. And sometimes that can even make you not play as well.
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“You can stiffen up, but we’re learning as a team how to work together, what our strengths and weaknesses are and how we can put that on our opposition and drill it home.
“When they do that ball is going to start rolling in our favour because everybody is pulling in the same direction. That’s not always the case, unfortunately.
“You understand when a team is only out for the team, when you’ve got a number of individuals that are only out for themselves.
“And that’s when you know you’ve got an issue, and that is not an issue that this team has.”