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Jamie George: 'I believed the hype... I learnt that the hard way'

By PA
England Training and Press Conference – Groupama Stadium – Friday 15th March

England captain Jamie George has given his players a simple message ahead of their Guinness Six Nations clash with France – do not believe the hype.

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England travel to Lyon on Saturday with an outside chance of snatching the title from Irish hands having stunned Andy Farrell’s favourites 23-22 in round four through a last-gasp Marcus Smith drop goal.

It was their finest performance since routing New Zealand in the semi-finals of the 2019 World Cup, but that seismic victory was followed by crushing final defeat to South Africa week later.

Seeing the potential parallels for the last two rounds of their Six Nations, George and head coach Steve Borthwick have taken steps to ensure England are not seduced by the acclaim that greeted their statement win against Ireland.

“We believed the hype in 2019, we kept living it for three or four days afterwards,” George said.

“You’re in a World Cup final week and I had every distraction under the sun. People wanting to come over, thousands of people asking you for tickets, people from school coming out the woodwork who I hadn’t spoken to for 10 years.

“It’s great but it can be really distracting and I probably learnt that the hard way. We definitely got it wrong in 2019.

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“You could see it in our energy and our life. Often you can see it in your work off the ball.

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“It’s a World Cup final so you think you’re going to be absolutely buzzing. I was buzzing mentally, it was almost a situation that I was trying to convince myself that I was buzzing rather than having anything in my legs to be able to go and do it.

“We didn’t reach the highs of the week before and what I learnt is that you need to be able to give yourself the space to get away from things and reflect. Do what you’ve got to do.

“Steve was very conscious about it. It was one of the first things I spoke to him about when we met up again last Sunday and he was already all over it.

“Not many teams come to France and win. We haven’t done that since 2016. We’re very aware of that.

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“We achieved something special last weekend, everyone felt that, but being able to back it up is a huge motivation for me. Good teams react well to setbacks, great teams make sure they back it up.”

England’s 2003 World Cup-winning captain Martin Johnson has revealed that ‘Le Crunch’ was his favourite rivalry and the fixture also gets George’s competitive juices flowing.

“I love it. I really respect how they see the game,” the Saracens hooker said.

“For me as a front-row forward going into this fixture I know exactly what is coming – it’s a physical battle, the confrontational element of it.

“There’s a line in the sand, it’s me versus you. What a great opportunity that is. I’ve loved playing French teams throughout my career, not just at international level but at club.

“There’s a consistency with how they judge the game and I’d agree with Martin in that respect – this is a game that is as big a rivalry as there is.”

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