December 13 2013 Latest news:
By James Cunliffe
Saturday, September 14, 2013
Jamie George has hailed the insight of ex-England international Graham Dawe and his uncle in preparing him for rugby’s return to the good old days of hooking.
The 22-year-old made a huge impact in a No2 jersey last weekend, scoring a brace of tries to be named man-of-the-match as Saracens got their Aviva Premiership campaign off to a maximum points start with a 42-20 victory over London Irish at Twickenham.
It was a performance that not only put him 2-0 up in a try-tally chocolate bar bet with mentor Schalk Brits, but saw director of rugby Mark McCall tip him for big things.
And the first half touchdowns were also a welcome windfall after all the focus of this fledgling campaign had been on the introduction of new scrum laws which, for the hookers at least, returns the emphasis to striking for the ball.
George, who has called for patience as players, coaches and referees adjust to the new sequence, has already been well-versed in the return to the old arts of his role after Sarries’ forward chief Alex Sanderson drafted in former Sale club-mate Dawe to share his set-piece wisdom over the summer.
“He was brilliant because the new scrum laws revert back to what it was back in the day, as such,” George said of the former England international.
“There is no better man to learn from than him and he knew lots of tricks of the trade and all the rest of it. He was a good man to learn from.”
Sanderson said: “He’s [Dawe] a good friend of mine and I played with him up at Sale.
“He’s one of those old school hookers. He knows how to hook and in the new scrums people are likening it to how it was 25 years ago.
“So he spent a bit of time with the hookers, working on their binding so they have the manoeuvrability to get the strike.
“He did a bit of work with them and we’ll do some more in the future hopefully.
“We do get specialist people in from time to time.
“We’re not so arrogant to think we know it all as coaches. There’s always someone who knows more, so to increase our knowledge we’ll look outside the box and outside our environment.”
George, who served his Saracens apprenticeship under South African legends Brits and recently-retired John Smit, has also been doing his own homework and used his family ties to tap into some hooking know-how.
He said: “My uncle also played hooker for Northampton back in the day, so I went down and had a session with him, got some ideas and I’ll try to match them together with [our] time.
“He was playing 20 to 30 years ago and the game has moved on. Players are bigger and the scrums are completely different so you’ve got to use the information that they give and try to adapt it to the situation that you’re in.
“But it was really helpful. To have people with that wealth of knowledge is a privilege for us to have.
“The general principles are the same for a hooker but back then I think hookers were a bit smaller.
“My uncle, for instance, was a little bit smaller than I was and he could do different things to what I can do now.
“Different things are happening in the scrum that weren’t happening back then.
“It’s about trying to pick out the things that you take across into the game now, [from those] that worked a couple of decades.”
George has been given the nod again for tomorrow’s visit of Gloucester to Sarries’ headquarters. Brits takes a place on the bench after serving his suspension for hitting club-mate Owen Farrell while starring for the Barbarians against the British and Irish Lions.
The Cherry and Whites will be desperate to right the wrongs of their opening day defeat to Sale Sharks and claim a first victory on Saracens soil since 2008, though this will be their first appearance at the Londoners’ new Hendon home.
“They always have a strong pack and they pride themselves on the set piece,” George said. “It will be a big thing for us this week, to make sure we get it right and give us a good platform.
“It doesn’t really change our mindset from team to team. The great thing about this squad is you don’t pick and choose when you turn up to play.
“We love playing at Allianz Park, we want to make it a fortress and we want to make it an amazing place to play rugby.
“They are coming to our home turf so we are going to be massively up for it. There are no easy games in this Premiership any more and you saw that from some of the results last weekend.
“We are going to be fired up for it. We’ll focus on us a little bit more and make sure that we are fully prepared to know what they’re going to bring and how to counteract that.”
Gloucester were tipped by some pundits to break into the Premiership’s top four this term, so the reverse against Sale came as something as a shock. George thinks they have the potential for big things, but, then again, so does his side.
The hooker said: “They’ve got a great squad of players, particularly Matt Kvesic is a great signing for them from Worcester. I played a little bit with him at [England] age groups and he’s a brilliant player.
“You would tip them to be up there at the end of the season. It’s completely fair that they’re going to be tipped to be up there but we are hoping to be up there as well.
“We believe in our squad of players. We signed very well and have a great squad of players here.
“We have got 40 brilliant first team players in this squad and a brilliant academy coming through, so we are in a great place as well.”