Jamie George braced for test in Thomond Park crucible
Saracens hooker looking forward to pitting his wits against Munster
Jamie George in action for the England Saxons against Ireland Wolfhounds at Kingsholm Stadium in Gloucester, England. Photo: Stu Forster/Getty Images
Saracens hooker Jamie George wouldn’t have to dwell too long on an ideal birthday present. He turned 24 on Wednesday and tonight at Thomond Park he plays one of the biggest games in a career that wouldn’t ordinarily be described as fledgling given that he’s already surpassed 100 competitive club matches.
There’s more to the number though. In the vast majority of those games he’s been a replacement. But South African, Schalk Brits sustained a knee injury in last weekend’s bonus-point victory over Clermont Auvergne. George started that match as Brits had just returned from international duty with the Springboks.
Known as Stavros to his team-mates, he’s been at the club from his early teenage years and played for England at Under-16, Under-18, Under-20 and Saxons level, enjoying appreciable success.
His development as a hooker has been shaped by former Springbok captain, John Smit and then Brits, players of diverse qualities. George is a hybrid of the two, mobile and hard-working in the loose, but at 6ft-plus and 17 stone a formidable bulwark in the tight.
Hill would watch his prodigy play and then work with him to improve his game.
George said of the relationship: “He’s a really nice guy, really down to earth. What he gets across is that you have to create a professional environment around everything you do. It’s not just about being a professional player but a professional in the way you approach every aspect of your life. His approach is that if you give everything and work hard you won’t fail.”
He was part of the intake in the Academy, the class of 2008, one that included Owen Farrell, George Kruis, who was called up to the England squad this week, Jackson Wray and Will Fraser, all of whom have gone on to acquit themselves very capably in professional rugby.
Saracens forwards’ coach Alex Sanderson, who worked with George in the England underage set-up too, pointed out: “He has learned his trade in the dark arts of the front row alongside Schalk and former Springbok captain John Smit and he is good enough now for England. He has proved this consistently against other Premiership hookers who are meant to be his rivals.”
“We will miss Schalk (Brits) because he is a game-breaker but Jamie has already shown he is ready to compete at the highest level and we started with him against Clermont even though Schalk was back from Test duty with South Africa.