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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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'I will make sure that I will never let that happen again'

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Saracens’ Jamie George has shed some light on why things didn’t work out for him in the second half of 2021, the hooker slipping down the pecking order while touring South Africa with the Lions and then falling out of favour with Eddie Jones’ England. Despite playing only Championship rugby with his club in the build-up, the 31-year-old would have gone on tour with great ambitions of being a Test team pick versus the Springboks, but that selection didn’t materialise.

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His lack of Lions recognition then carried over into the early part of the England season where he was omitted from the squad originally picked for the Autumn Nations Series. It required an injury to Luke Cowen-Dickie to get him back into the fold and despite picking up an injury himself versus Australia in November, he managed to play in seven of England’s eight matches, starting on five occasions.

George is now back at Saracens and gunning to land the club’s first Gallagher Premiership title since their 2019 final win over Exeter at Twickenham. They have defending champions Harlequins in this Saturday’s semi-finals and he heads into that encounter having reflected on his recent ups and downs and how he coped.

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The Breakdown | Sky Sport NZ | Episode 16
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The Breakdown | Sky Sport NZ | Episode 16

“It has been a bit of a roller-coaster season for myself personally,” he said on Tuesday regarding his mixed fortunes. “Injuries, selection, form. You learn a lot about yourself in testing times and I felt like I bounced back from those kinds of things pretty well.

“I’m hugely excited about this week and will then be excited about the following week all being well [the Premiership final] and then hopefully in Australia in the summer (with England). I’m very confident where I am at phsyically and the biggest compliment I can pay myself is I know that I am ready to give as much as I can to the team and I won’t be in a position to let anyone down.

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“It’s hard to give too much away,” he added when asked to elaborate on why it went wrong for him. “I play at my best when I feel like I am challenging myself, if that makes sense, and I often need to go and seek that challenge, I don’t want to ever feel comfortable in my place or anything like that. I need to make sure that my motivation stays on top of it.

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“What I have also learned is that looking after myself physically, recovery wise, nutrition-wise, all these kind of things has a huge impact on the way that I perform so that has been a big focus for me without giving too much away.”

Did playing in the Championship with Saracens contribute to his slowdown in form? “Probably at the time I didn’t think so but maybe it did. There were times throughout that season where I don’t want to come across as arrogant but you almost hit cruise control, you rely on other people around you more, you think that things are just going to happen, the team doesn’t need me as much, whatever that might be.

“That probably came into my mindset and I’m disappointed that I allowed that to happen and I will make sure that I will never let that happen again. I played for this team for a long time now and I’m very clear in my role, my responsibility to this team – it’s quite a big one which I love and I can’t let anyone down.

“I need to make sure that it hit everything that I am required to do and it is a big responsibility but with great responsibility comes great opportunities. It’s an exciting opportunity for me [the end to this season].”

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