England lock George Kruis has just one more game to negotiate before ankle surgery rules him out for two months and believes he can help power Saracens to their most complete performance of a topsy-turvy season against reigning champions Exeter in Saturday’s Aviva Premiership play-off final at Twickenham
The British and Irish Lions forward, who played in the first test against the All Blacks in the drawn series last summer, is part of a 21 strong list of players not able to tour with England to South Africa next month including Jonathan Joseph, Courtney Lawes, Anthony Watson, Jack Willis and captain Dylan Hartley.
Kruis’s omission from the tour party is with the blessing of England head coach Eddie Jones who like Saracens wants one of the World’s outstanding lineout technicians fully fit for the start of next season which leads into the World Cup in Japan.
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For Kruis the operation is secondary to the need to play his part in making Saracens English rugby’s top team again by beating an Exeter side that knocked them out of the play-off semi-finals last season a week after their successful defence of the European Champions Cup against Clermont in Murrayfield. Having been beaten by eventual champions Leinster in the Cup quarter-finals, Saracens have been able to enjoy a quieter build up and the manner of their 57-33 semi-final win over Wasps last weekend was a warning to Exeter.
While Kruis believes their first half showing against Wasps was the best the team has delivered in a season that saw them suffer seven successive defeats before Christmas, he knows it will take something even better to overcome the reigning champions. He said: “Our performance in the first half against Wasps was as complete as we have been all season. We have had halves when we were good but also periods that have been pretty average compared to the standards we set for ourselves.
“Our challenge will be to deliver our best performance against Exeter who are a very good side. We know what kind of challenge they pose and how they like to play and the onus is on us to put our stamp on the game.
“We have had a lot of ups and down plus a fair few injuries in the season and now we are just excited about finishing a project we started four or five weeks ago. We have been professional moving from one project to the next and this is the last one.
“My ankle has been something I have had to deal with for a while and at this stage of the season lots of players have something wrong with them and it’s about how you manage it.
“I will be out for eight to ten weeks and will be back within the pre-season period and will be able to get some good training under my belt. You want to be involved in every tour but as my body won’t let me this time then I will take the rest and go from there.”
Saracens club mate Billy Vunipola may join the list of players unable to tour with England if his hamstring becomes a problem again the final against Exeter having forced him off at half time in the win over Wasps at Allianz Park last weekend. Vunipola admitted to BT Sport that the frustration of his knee ligament operation followed by a broken arm suffered against the Ospreys had driven him to tears of frustration. Vunipola said: “I came off as a precaution against Wasps and the biggest challenge this season has been doubting myself and asking what have I been doing wrong. Are the injuries my fault?
“There were points where I cried out of frustration and in my head it was about accepting the situation rather than fighting against it particularly after the Ospreys game. Maybe you push yourself too hard to get back.”
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