‘I can’t say that it wasn’t the best thing for me’ – Lawrence on Bath move following starting return for England

Ollie Lawrence played the full 80 minutes against Italy on Sunday afternoon
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Following his Player of the Match performance in England’s 31-14 win over Italy on Sunday afternoon, Ollie Lawrence says that his move to Bath after his boyhood club, Worcester Warriors, folded was perhaps the best thing for him.

Playing the full 80 minutes in England’s first win under new head coach, Steve Borthwick, the 23-year-old had a significant impact on proceedings. 

Making 80 meters from his 11 carries, the Bromsgrove-born back provided plenty of go-forward as England subdued an Italy team which had scared France a weekend prior.

For Lawrence, his performance must have come as something of a relief after a torrid time with injury and Worcester having entered administration at the start of the new season.

As a result, Lawrence was forced to move to Somerset mid-season, and has since starred for Johann van Graan’s side and despite not initially making Borthwick’s England squad, took his opportunity on Sunday.

Following so many months of uncertainty and the consistent injury issues which Lawrence has had, he says that in spite of the dark moments, his move to Bath has only been positive for the nine-cap international.

“Finding out what had happened to Worcester, knowing that we were going into administration was pretty tough to take,” Lawrence said.

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“I had been there since I was 15, it’s always been a part of my life, and my family’s. That was hard to take, to lose out on a lot of different friendships and stuff, we’ve all had to go in our different directions.

“Off the back of it, I can’t say that it wasn’t the best thing for me, because I think I needed the change. It took me leaving Worcester to realise that.”

The fate of Warriors is still very much up in the air. Now with new owners, national headlines were made a week ago when the new ownership sensationally revealed that they would be linking up with National 2 West side Stourbridge RFC and withdrawing from their application to join the Championship from next season.

Across Worcester’s struggles, Lawrence was praised for housing Academy players left without a home after repossessions and is not alone in the England squad in experiencing the fall of the club which nurtured them.

Jack Willis suffered the same fate at Wasps. Following his own mid-season move, to Stade Toulousain, the 26-year-old has thrived in a new environment and also starred for England in his first Test start since 2020.

A first start for Lawrence in an England shirt since July 2021, it was a more than triumphant return for the centre, who made inroads early on with a series of strong carries.

Filling out the brief set out to him by the coaching staff, England’s head coach was pleased with his inside centre’s performance after shaking things up in the midfield.

“It was part of our tactical plan for this week,” Borthwick said of Lawrence’s role. “You pick a guy who can carry like that, you want him to carry.

“That is what I said to him all week. There were no complicated instructions, I just said, ‘you have earned it from the way you play week in and week out’, and he did it really well.”

That clarity in what was required by Lawrence clearly had an impact on the 23-year-old, who certainly performed a different role than the one he had experienced under Eddie Jones.

“I think last time, I don’t want to say I wasn’t in the plan,” Lawrence said. “I think I probably look for the ball more – sometimes when you don’t look for the ball you don’t get it.

“I think today going into the game I was relaxed; I knew what my role was in the team and I tried to do that for the boys. We all fight for each other here and I think that is the special thing about this group.”

Over the past two weeks, there has been plenty of talk about Borthwick’s selection at fly-half and in centre.

Not selecting Manu Tuilagi for the first two Tests at all, Borthwick also put an end to the Marcus Smith-Owen Farrell axis for the visit of Italy and installed Lawrence as a more traditional 12 with the left-footed Henry Slade at outside centre.

It was a combination which seemed to click from the off, the backs getting plenty of good ball thanks to the dominant forward pack and finding consistently almost instantly.

With Wales up in two weekends’ time, it would not be a surprise to see the same combination again, the 23-year-old felt at ease in the thick of things.

“My role today, I think Steve put it as: ‘you’ve got to kick the front door down’,” Lawrence said. “You can understand what he means by that.

“My job is to be physical both sides of the ball and support the other players around me and today that is what I tried to do, to get us over the gainline and get the quick ball.

“Faz [Owen Farrell] has been really good for me over the last two weeks in making sure that I know what I’m doing, and he is giving me the right balls, so I’ve fed off him.

“Sladey outside me is an experienced player, both of them are, so I am happy to be stuck in the middle of them.”

A week prior, following England’s 23-29 loss to Scotland, Marcus Smith spoke of “feeling like himself” after the defeat. It is something that can be seen across the entire England squad as they adapt to life under new coaching following a dismal 2022.

In some ways unincumbered by the last calendar year as a result of injury and not being selected, Lawrence shares s similar feeling, something which bodes well for England as they head into the first fallow week before a trip to Cardiff.

“It’s been a really good week, we’ve got better as a team throughout the week,” Lawrence said. “Going into this weekend, you want to ensure that we follow up from a good training week and bounce back from last week.

“I found myself enjoying myself a lot more throughout these campaigns. Obviously, with Steve in charge it has been a fresh start for me, and I’ve really enjoyed it.

“All the boys have been class, the leaders within the squad like the Faz’s and the Genge’s have pushed us to keep working together. I think we can really see the fight in the group now.”