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Back from the abyss, Bath's revival is gathering steam

Johan van Graan has quietly set about improving every facet of the West Country club and results are starting to come

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George McGuigan and his 'constant dialogue with England'

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Alex Davidson/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

Dave Walder is hoping that Newcastle can get two hookers – the uncapped George McGuigan and the six-cap Jamie Blamire – named in the latest England training camp squad set to be announced on Monday by Eddie Jones. The England boss is scheduled to pick a squad that will assemble for a three-day training camp from Sunday, October 2, and new Falcons director of rugby Walder is hoping that two players fighting for the same jersey at Kingston Park will both be selected.

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It has happened before, McGuigan joining Blamire for 36- and 35-strong three-day gatherings in London in May and early June, but neither Newcastle player ultimately made it on the England tour to Australia. Their starts to the new club season have since been quite contrasting.

McGuigan, who has been named as the Newcastle captain for this Saturday’s Gallagher Premiership trip to Worcester, has demonstrated his finishing process by scoring three tries in two games at the starting hooker, Blamire has been getting used to being used elsewhere in the pack.

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With the Falcons coping with the absence of up to 20 players this month, Blamire started at openside in the games versus Harlequins and Leicester and he has now been named at No20 for the trip to Sixways.

It’s quite the balancing act but, nevertheless, Walder has fingers crossed that his hooker rivals can receive good England news on Monday from Jones. “On the one hand, I hope so and on the other, I hope not,” said Walder when asked by RugbyPass how he would feel to have his two No2 rivals included at international level at the same time.

“They are both fantastic. George has consistently been one of the top three or four hookers in the Premiership over the last two years. Jamie is probably our best rugby-playing forward. He is a very instinctive player. He is a ball of energy and I can see exactly why he is used in England in the way they use him.

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“They are both brilliant rugby players. I can deal with them both in a training camp but I’d struggle if they both got called up during the autumn. But as I say, I’d be very proud and the reality is my job is to provide people for the England team from a personal point of view and that is something I hope the case will be although from Newcastle’s point of view it would be nice to keep one of them here.”

For McGuigan, it must have been frustrating last season seeing Blamire getting picked by England even though he wasn’t the first-choice hooker at Newcastle. What sort of off-season chats has he had with Walder about his desire to get more of a look-in internationally?

“He is very, very driven. He has been very disappointed over the last couple of years to not have more involvement but he understands why. He is in constant dialogue with England so he is clear about what his objectives are to work on and he is very, very driven. The two of them are probably the most competitive players in our squad and he is desperate to get back in there and make a good fist of it.”

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