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'Scotland's scrum tried to contain rather than make an even contest - they got away with it'

By PA
Henry Slade, Jamie George and Jonny May /PA

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England hooker Jamie George was the man at the centre of the four overtime scrums which aroused so much Calcutta Cup controversy.

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And the experienced Saracens no.2 has suggested that Scotland’s front row “got away with it” after referee Ben O’Keefe declined to award England a kickable penalty which could have tied the scores.

“We had an opportunity to win the game at the end with our scrum,” George said. “When an opportunity comes up for myself, Joe Marler and Will Stuart, I’d like to think we can take it and I’m disappointed that we couldn’t get it over in the end.

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“We need to have a look at ourselves a bit more, probably take the scrum by the scruff of the neck and hopefully win a penalty.

“Fair play to Scotland, they dug us out and we weren’t able to retain the ball. It’s frustrating on that side, but that’s the fine margins of Test match rugby.

“I felt like we had dominance. I felt like the Scotland scrum were probably just trying to contain rather than to make it an even contest, but they got away with it. Maybe that’s just good play from them.”

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George insists England will rally around Luke Cowan-Dickie after he conceded the penalty try that turned the dramatic Calcutta Cup contest in their favour.

Cowan-Dickie apologised to fans for slapping a Finn Russell cross-field kick forward into touch, denying Darcy Graham the chance to score, and referee Ben O’Keeffe duly punished England.

On top of the seven points awarded to Scotland, the Lions hooker was sent to the sin-bin as a 17-10 lead became 17-17 before Russell eventually landed the decisive penalty.

“Luke’s disappointed. It was a difficult situation,” said George, who replaced Cowan-Dickie at hooker.

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“If you actually look at the amount of work Luke did to get to where the ball was, not many hookers in world rugby can do that and none of us are overly comfortable under the high ball.

“He’s a tough player and a great person. He’ll come back and be better than ever, I’m sure. The responsibility within the group is to make sure he’s OK.

“He’s going to be beating himself up, of course he is. But it isn’t his fault, it isn’t his fault whatsoever.

“There were lots of other opportunities for us to win that game and to stretch the game out, take it beyond a seven-point game. The front row came on and conceded a scrum penalty also, which we don’t like.

“It’s certainly not because of him that we lost, by any stretch of the imagination. He’ll be disappointed but we’ll come around him because we’re a tight-knit group and that’s what we do.”

It is the third successive time that England have opened the Six Nations with a defeat, but George is confident they can rebuild.

“It’s frustrating, it’s not how we wanted to start because, off the back of a good autumn, we had some good momentum,” he said. “But at the same time there was a lot of good in the game.

“I didn’t think it was a fair reflection and there were some disappointed guys in that changing room.

“The momentum can pick up pretty quickly. We’ve got Italy next weekend and we’re fully aware that we’ll need five points out of that game and that will be our main focus.”

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