England star Jamie George poised to become world’s best hooker – EXCLUSIVE | Rugby Union | Sport

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Eddie Jones’s loyalty to Dylan Hartley has left George with an immoveable object in front of him. However well George plays for his club, off the bench for his country or as the starting hooker for the Lions, it seems there is no shifting the England captain. In Jones’s eyes he is indispensable as England’s leader.

It is a frustration for George, who won Warren Gatland’s vote to wear the No2 shirt for the Lions and whose head-to-heads with Hartley this season have ended in crushing wins for Saracens over Northampton, but not a limitation on his ambition.


“I’m in the position that I’m in. All I am focusing on is trying to be the best player I can be and my aim is to become the best hooker in the world,” said George, four years Hartley’s junior at 27.

“The message I get from Eddie and the coaches is that they want me to become the best hooker in the world and that’s where my motivation is.

“If the best thing for the team is that Dylan starts and I come off the bench then I will make the most of that opportunity.

“We do have a competition. That’s natural. We are both fighting to be the No1 hooker in England. But there’s no hatred for one another. We laugh about it.”

Jones, a former hooker himself, says he prefers a “butcher” in the middle of his front row. With Hartley, whose chequered disciplinary rap sheet – including a headbutt on George in a 2015 Premiership game – stretches far back into the distance, you can almost hear the slashing sounds.

If George was of a similar temperament to Hartley, would their relationship work?

“I don’t think so,” said George. “But we do, in a way, complement each other. We work well together. In camp we want each other to get better because that in turn will help the team.

“I have a lot of respect for him. Dylan is a very knowledgeable bloke and he gets the best out of other people. He encourages them to contribute. That’s the sign of a good captain – trying to get the best out of other people around him.”

Both men have been working this week at Pennyhill Park with consultant Marc Dal Maso, the extrovert Frenchman who ran Japan’s scrum for Jones at the last World Cup.

“He’s a really interesting guy. He’s so passionate and intense,” said George. “It’s the first time I’ve ever worked with a coach that needs a translator so everything takes a little bit longer, but I find because of that you end up focusing a little bit more on what is being said.”

George, whose father Ian sat on the England bench nine times without ever winning a cap, was finally given his first start by Jones after a record 19 Tests as a substitute against Samoa in the autumn, but normal service is set to be resumed when the team to face Italy is named today.

“It was nice to get a start and nice to get the world record off my back because it was what everyone wanted to speak about,” said George.

“It wasn’t the best thing to have to my name but at the same time I am involved in an England team that has won the majority of those games. I’d prefer to be there than not.

“And the finishers have been doing a really good job. If you look at the way England games have gone recently, the last 20 minutes have been generally pretty successful. We have run away with games.”

The last two meetings with Italy have underlined England’s firepower off the bench. Two years ago at the Stadio Olimpico, a narrow two-point lead at half-time mushroomed into a handsome 40-19 victory. Last year at Twickenham, England were only two points clear with 12 minutes remaining before a late onslaught brought a 36-15 win.

It would be a fair bet this weekend’s game will follow the same pattern – with George leading the unstoppable cavalry charge.



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