Aviva Premiership
Six Nations fitness race for Lawes
ESPNscrum Staff
January 3, 2012
Northampton's Courtney Lawes looks for an opening, Exeter Chiefs v Northampton Saints, Aviva Premiership, Sandy Park, Exeter, England, March 6, 2011
Lawes is expected to be available for England's Six Nations squad © Getty Images

England and Northampton lock Courtney Lawes will be out for "a few weeks" after picking up a knee injury, according to Saints director of rugby Jim Mallinder.

Lawes injured his right knee in the last action of Northampton's New Year's Day victory against Newcastle, and is currently awaiting the results of a scan to assess the extent of the damage.

But while Lawes is certainly ruled out of Northampton's clash with Harlequins on Friday, Mallinder is optimistic that the 22-year-old will be available for the Six Nations if included in Stuart Lancaster's squad, set to be announced on January 11.

"I think he'll be out for a few weeks. It's not a serious one," Mallinder told the BBC. "He was playing really well - it's really disappointing for him, but it's not his season over.

"We picked Courtney in the back row against Newcastle and he had a really good, solid game, Particularly in the last 20 minutes. He was tackling well, getting around the field and putting in some really good defensive hits. We need to look after him and hopefully he'll come back fit and ready to go."

Lancaster was already waiting for injury updates from Leicester duo Manu Tuilagi and Louis Deacon, who both picked up hamstring strains against Worcester on December 27, while Mallinder may give the interim England head coach a further headache as he decides how to deal with Chris Ashton.

The wing, available again after serving a ban for tackling Alesana Tuilagi by the hair, has refused to discuss his future with the club and is reportedly set to sign for Saracens next season.

Mallinder may choose to reward the likes of Vasily Artemiev and James Elliott, who have served the club well in Ashton's absence, or the returning Noah Cato a starting role in the biggest game of the domestic season to date.

Lancaster will be keen to see Ashton given game time ahead of England's Six Nations opener against Italy on February 11, but Mallinder insists his responsibility is to Northampton first and foremost.

"The selections will be purely on Saints' grounds," Mallinder said. "Of course we will have the conversations and I am sure England and Chris will be keen to play and be involved as much as he can, but ultimately we have got to look after ourselves and the final decision will be with Saints at the forefront."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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