Saracens’ George ‘buzzing’ at great opportunity with England
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Saracens’ Jamie George understands the prize at stake after being elevated to the status of first choice hooker for England’s Cook Cup clash with Australia.
For the first time since Eddie Jones took charge three years ago, George starts against tier one opposition instead of Dylan Hartley, who must settle for a place on the bench at Twickenham on Saturday despite being the team’s co-captain.
Jones insists it is a tactical selection but George knows that with the World Cup nine months away, the hierarchy in his position may have been turned on its head having served as Hartley’s understudy since making his debut in 2015.
“I’m very aware that it’s a big opportunity for me, but it doesn’t make me nervous, I don’t get anxious about it,” the Sarries front row said.
“I was buzzing when I heard. Really happy. Despite some line-out discrepancies against New Zealand, I actually feel like I’m playing well.
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“I’m buzzing to get out there on Saturday, I can’t wait. Of course it’s a great opportunity so hopefully I’ll take it.”
Hartley started the opening two Quilter Internationals against South Africa and New Zealand before dropping to the bench for the visit of Japan.
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On Saturday he will become England’s most capped player at Twickenham, surpassing the mark of 55 appearances made by Jason Leonard, but must do so as part of the second-half cavalry.
“Dylan was one of the first to congratulate me. We work really well together, regardless of all the competition,” added George.
“We want each other to do well because ultimately that’s going to benefit the team so we’re always trying to put the team first no matter what. I’ve got an opportunity this week and Dylan has been brilliant.
“I always want to start the game – naturally, you always do. But that is often taken out of my hands. I don’t pick the team – if I did then I’d have 100 caps!
“The way I play the game, I like to get my hands on the ball and make physical collisions in defence.
“I like to be accurate at the set-piece and for me that’s where my head’s at. My preparation won’t change due to the fact I’m starting in this team.”
Jones insists he has made the call based on how he believes the climax to the autumn at Twickenham will unfold.
“It’s just how we think the game will go. We think the first half of the game there will be a lot of ball in play, a lot of movement. That suits Jamie,” Jones said.
“The end of the game we think will be more set-piece, more of an arm wrestle and that suits Dylan. It has nothing to do with last week’s game.
“As far as we are concerned we name a squad of 23. The only reason we have to put one and 16 is because of World Rugby, otherwise I wouldn’t have it.
“I’d just have a squad of 23. We’d name 15 to run on and eight to finish. That’s the way the game’s going to be.”