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The bold hunch Jamie George has about 'huge strides' England

By Liam Heagney
Jamie George gets ready to lead England out in Lyon (Photo by Jeff Pachoud/AFP via Getty Images)

Jamie George has predicted a bright future for England after they came within a whisker of recording a first Guinness Six Nations campaign with four wins for the first time since 2020, the last time they were crowned champions.

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England were ahead until the final minute in Lyon, falling to a 31-33 defeat from a monster Thomas Ramos penalty kick from halfway following a tackling infringement by Ben Earl.

It was a bruising outcome in total contrast to the euphoria seven days earlier when Marcus Smith dropped a goal on penalty advantage to beat Ireland in London, but a wounding last-minute loss for England in France wasn’t anything new.

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It was October 21 when a halfway line scrum infringement allowed Handre Pollard the opportunity to kick South Africa into the Rugby World Cup final and that painful nightmare sprang to George’s mind 21 weeks later when he attempted to verbalise the trauma of falling victim to another late kicking tee sucker punch.

“That’s just the way Test rugby goes sometimes,” he shrugged following a to-and-fro fixture where England outscored France four-three on the try count. “The boys knew it was going to be hostile and France were going to come out and give it a good crack.

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“I thought it was a great Test match all in all. Of course, I’m gutted about the result. I feel like we deserved a lot out of that because of the way that we attacked the game, the way that we went after it and there was a lot to be very pleased about, a lot to be very proud of.

“Fair play to France for coming back and getting that penalty at the end. Fair play to Ramos for knocking it over. There was a bit of déjà vu from the Pollard penalty a few months ago.

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“That’s always going to be tough to take but there is so much to be proud of the last few weeks. We genuinely feel this team is on an upward curve and we are going somewhere.”

It was January 24 when England assembled in Girona, their warm-weather training base ahead of a campaign that heralded respective three- and two-point wins over Italy in Rome and Wales in London before the devastating crash that was losing by nine points to Scotland in Edinburgh.

The response to that damaging setback was immense, though, with England ambushing the back-to-back Grand Slam-chasing Ireland in London before going toe-to-toe with France in Lyon.

Asked to sum the entire seven and a half weeks, George began: “What a question that is. There has been a huge amount gone on. If you look at the rugby side, where we were when we met up in Girona seven weeks ago to the team we are now we have made huge strides.

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“We spoke a lot pre this tournament about reconnecting with England fans, bringing them on a journey, putting a smile on their faces and we have certainly done that.

“Ultimately we are going to be disappointed because we came into this tournament genuinely believing we could win it. We have shown in parts that we are a good enough team to do that.

“Overall, I’m so excited what the future holds for English rugby. The people, I am not talking necessarily about the players on the field, the people that we have in the staff, the way that everyone has looked after each other, the environment that we are creating, that’s special.

“You guys [the media] might not be able to get too much of a feel of that but I’m in the heart of it and I believe we have got the right people in place to do very, very special things with this England team. That’s a really exciting place to be.

“We are on an upward trajectory. We are working really hard behind the scenes to go and improve. There is a lot of talk about our attack, scoring tries and that kind of thing but not many teams come and front up in the set-piece in France like we did.

“Set-piece is in a really good place. Our attack is building really nicely scoring four tries away here off the back of the way we played against Ireland.

“And then defensively what Felix Jones has come in and done and the way the players have picked that up, it’s coming together nicely. We didn’t find a way to win. It’s something we have got to look at moving forward, but we can be really happy with where we are going.”

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Jon 5 hours ago
British & Irish Lions free agent open to Super Rugby switch

There are a couple of teams who could use a stop gap experienced head. Blues - I’m not sure the Blues have signed a replacement for Caleb Tangitau (if he hasn’t been let go to make room for Barrett) yet, or whether Reiko is going on sabbatical and/or will remain in the squad. With exciting young French player Xavi Taele looking destined for higher honors in black, talented breakthrough rookie Cory Evan’s, and a couple of utilities, in AJ Lam and Bryce Heem(even Clarke?), all trying to learn the midfield trade, Williams could be a great aid. The Blues signed key English center Joe Marchant before he was raised to that level, and were possibly in the hunt to bring back the dependable Tele’a from the Highlanders. Possible the main squeeze which would put to bed any signing here would be the battle at 10 with Beauden’s return, and the forcing of Plummer back into the midfield. Hurricanes - Jordie Barrett is off to Leinster for a sabbatical next year but the more likely signing would be Billy’s brother back in the team. The Hurricanes are light on the outside with the loss of Salesi Rayasi to the Top 14 and if no quality is found to back up Kini Naholo, the midfield of Sullivan or Proctors could find themselves on the wing and space for a leader to show the Hurricanes three All Black midfield hopefuls (Higgins, Proctor, Umaga-Jensen) how its done. Highlanders - Rotation is high as usual at the Highlanders and versatility remains a strength with a lot of the squad. With compatriot Rhys Patchell signing a move to the JRLO, the passing of outside back Connor Garden-Bachop, and confirmed departure of Argentine wing Martin Bogado, the versatility of many of the young backups in the squad could see a veteran 12 like Williams being a strong partner for the robust Tele’a. With hope that the other Umaga-Jensen brother can force him out of the starting lineup, and shifting the sides general Sam Gilbert back into 10, the off-contract midfielder might seen as the perfect option for a squad still looking to fill one back spot.

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