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George/Morgan: The Odd Couple

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How England's Jamie George and the Irishman skippering English cricket became drinking buddies

They’re an unlikely drinking couple, the cricket-playing Dubliner and the rugby union-mad Londoner. But Eoin Morgan and Jamie George seemingly get on like two peas in a pod.

The Irishman is somehow a Saracens fan, cheering along with the best of them whenever he can get to a game at Allianz Park. And the roles are easily reversed whenever the England hooker has managed to get along to whatever the action is at Lord’s.

When they next catch up, there will be quite the success to toast. Three weeks on from the mesmerising conclusion to the 2019 Cricket World Cup, George is thrilled his pal managed to manoeuvre England over the line in a final that was extraordinarily gripping.

So much so that even Eddie Jones, the English rugby boss from Australia, felt obliged to delay a rugby meeting in Bristol so that his squad could see if their fellow countrymen – a team humiliated at their previous World Cup – could achieve world final glory.

From chumps to champs is the epic rags to riches transformation the rugby fraternity will now hope to similarly replicate at their own sport’s global jamboree later this year in Japan, four years after they were embarrassingly eliminated after just three matches when hosting their own World Cup in 2015.

Eoin Morgan

England cricket captain Eoin Morgan passes the rugby ball during a nets session in Adelaide in 2015 (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

“We watched it all together as a group,” enthused George about the cricket after returning to England following a 12-day warm-weather camp in Italy ahead of next weekend’s first-of-four World Cup warm-up matches.  

“We were in Bristol at the time. We were lucky that Eddie is a cricket fan so he pushed a meeting back as it went into the Super Over. I don’t know if jealous is the word. I’m quite lucky that I know a couple of the guys involved in the team and I was just so, so happy for them. 

“What that England cricket team has done over the last four years has been incredible and there were a lot of parallels between us and them… I spoke to a few of their guys about it before. We have been through very similar challenges. 

“To see them come out the other side and be crowned world champions is fully deserved and I’m very proud of them doing that,” he explained, revealing his friendship with English skipper Morgan who exhibited nerves of organisational steel in that dramatic finale at Lord’s. 

“I know Eoin Morgan through Saracens and Jason Roy through my mate Sam Billings. You can see the parallels in how they had some pretty disappointing campaigns, some tough losses. Very much like us. 

“There are not direct parallels in terms of the way the game is played but in the team culture and the rest of it, that’s something Eoin Morgan is very keen on talking about so I have chatted about that with him before. 

Jamie George

Saracens’ Jamie George celebrates after scoring his second try during the 2019 Gallagher Premiership Rugby final against Exeter (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

“He is a very impressive bloke and I have learnt a huge amount from him in terms of what he has done with the England cricket team.

“He is a Sarries fan, so I have met him quite a few times through Saracens. I know him through that and I was at Lord’s watching him play, sent him a text and he was around for a beer afterwards,” he continued, adding that the ear of injured county cricketer Billings has also been useful with the countdown on towards Japan. 

“I spoke to him quite a lot when he first got injured. It was the first time that he had been injured really so he asked me my opinion on how to go about it physically and mentally. 

“I had not done my shoulder like he had but I had definitely spoken to him. He is looking close to a return so looking forward to that. He is (a patient at the Carter & George Practice physiotherapy clinic)… funnily enough, he has got a shirt on the wall.”

Whether anyone will be looking to put an England Rugby RWC 2019 shirt on a wall somewhere depends on how whether they prosper in the far east. It’s a tall order given some of the worrying frailties exposed during a Six Nations campaign where they were beaten by Wales and pegged back for an incredible draw at home to Scotland.

The air has since been cleared, though, George admitting that the novelty of this lengthy pre-season for country rather than club has afforded ample opportunity to better set the mood among the squad.

Jamie George

Jamie George, the England hooker, places a towel on his head as protection during an England gym session last month (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

“We are together for a long time and togetherness is something Eddie highlighted from the Six Nations as something we needed to work on clearly,” revealed the hooker first capped during the run-in to the 2015 World Cup.  

“It is something that is definitely tighter now that we were during the Six Nations. We are having some really good conversations about how to get better and we are also just getting to know each other a bit better.

“That has put us in good stead. Hopefully when the pressure comes on as a group we will be tighter and it will make it easier to get through those times,” he said, adding that the return of fellow front row Joe Marler, who has come out of Test retirement for the tournament, has added to the positive vibe.  

“Whenever Joe Marler’s around, it’s always extremely entertaining. He’s been amazing. It seems a long time since he left. A lot has happened. He’s a joker off the field but he’s a calm head on it and he has a huge amount of experience. 

“He adds to the group off the field and on the field. He keeps things nice and calm and adding some key points around the new scrummaging laws. He’s been vital around that.

My first cap in the pre-World Cup games last time around seems a long time ago. It’s an incredibly exciting time to be involved in English rugby. There’s a huge excitement and belief amongst the group that we can really do something special. I can’t wait to get going with the games.

“Whenever England play Wales it is going to have an edge to it. At the end of the day it is a Test match, playing them home and away and they are both amazing opportunities to put our best foot forward and potentially right a few wrongs from that game in the Six Nations,” adding that the humid Japanese-like conditions experienced in Italy in recent week were ideal preparation for his lineout throwing at the finals.  

“It is difficult. The ball does get extremely slippery and it’s a different type of challenge. We didn’t use too many towels so we didn’t get too much opportunity to dry the balls. It’s a tough challenge but one that you have got to get your head around.”

With Saracens winning all before them last season, completing their second European Champions Cup and English Premiership title double in four seasons, George added that the club’s Test level contingent have been sounded out by England boss Jones. 

“It’s a different environment. Eddie’s always looking to pick up bits from everyone. I’m lucky that I play for a relatively successful club and Eddie tries to pick out brains but, at the same time, it’s a different environment. 

“We’re trying to create something similar but our own type of culture, guys at Saracens are giving their opinions on how they think things should be run but it’s a leadership group of guys from all different clubs.”

WATCH: Jim Hamilton visits Jamie George at his home in St Albans in this edition of the RugbyPass Rugby Pads series 

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How England's Jamie George and the Irishman skippering English cricket became drinking buddies