August 31 2014 Latest news:
By Ben Pearce
Thursday, May 1, 2014
EXCLUSIVE: Jamie George says his Saracens team-mate Chris Ashton is “one of the best players in the world” after the winger’s record-breaking brace of tries in Saturday’s magnificent Heineken Cup victory over Clermont Auvergne.
Ashton’s two scores in the semi-final took his tally to 11 in this season’s European competition – a new record for the tournament.
The 27-year-old was omitted from the England squad for the Six Nations, but George believes he should be an automatic choice for the Red Rose.
“In my eyes Chris Ashton is one of the best players in the world,” he said. “That’s why he’s been nominated for the ERC European player of the year and he deserves accolades like that.
“If it was up to me I’d have him in [at England level] every week. He’s showing every week for Saracens that he’s unbelievably committed.
“What people see is him scoring tries but what people don’t see is what he does off the ball to get those tries, how good he is defensively. It’s amazing to play with players like that because he makes people around him look good as well.”
Other records tumbled at Twickenham on Saturday as Saracens smashed last season’s finalists Clermont 46-6, avenging their elimination in the 2012 quarter-finals.
It was the most points scored by a team in the Heineken Cup semi-finals, the most tries scored (six) and the biggest winning margin.
“It doesn’t really get much better than that,” said George. “No-one in the rugby world was expecting a result like that. We always backed ourselves to put in a great performance and nothing really could have gone better for us on the day.
“We’re ecstatic with the victory and really looking forward to the final. I was talking to my dad after the game. He was saying ‘how well did Alex Goode play! How well did Jacques Burger play!’
“If you actually look at it from No1 to No23, there really weren’t any bad performances. Everyone dug in and put in brilliant performances.
“You look at Tim Streather, he came off the bench for 10 minutes to set up a try and score a try, and that was his first Heineken Cup appearance, so he obviously put in a great shift.”
Saracens are now looking forward to their first ever Heineken Cup final – and it was also be the last ever Heineken Cup final as the competition is replaced by the European Rugby Champions Cup next season.
“As a rugby fan I grew up watching the Heineken Cup with my family at home,” said George. “It’s an historic competition and that would be an amazing accolade for us, if we could be the last winners of the Heineken Cup. I’m sure it will be spoken about and it’s obviously a big aim of ours to do the job in Cardiff.”
Saracens will face the defending champions Toulon on May 24 – the side who knocked them out in the semi-finals of last year’s tournament.
But, in the meantime, Sarries must refocus to domestic action – although the Premiership leaders have already secured a home semi-final in the play-offs as they go for the double.
“It’s all about momentum and we’re on a bit of a roll at the moment and we’re playing brilliant rugby,” said George. “We all just want to continue that momentum into the Premiership and put in similar performances and see where that gets us.
“We’re in a brilliant place, but at the same time we can’t get ahead of ourselves. We fell at the last hurdle last season in both competitions [in the semi-finals], and it’s nice to have one final secured and have the home semi-final there as well, but the season certainly isn’t done yet.
“We’re at the business end now and we need to keep putting in the performances that we’ve put in in the last few weeks.”