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The message Jamie George has for Will Skelton and Australia

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Ramos/World Rugby via Getty Images)

England hooker Jamie George has sent a message to Will Skelton and his devastated Wallabies who are facing Rugby World Cup pool stage elimination for the first time in Australia’s history. The Aussies were taken over in January by ex-England boss Eddie Jones but it hasn’t been a successful alliance as defeats to Fiji and Wales have them poised to miss out on quarter-final qualification.

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They finished up their pool campaign with a win on Sunday over a Portuguese side that they even trailed for seven first-half minutes, and they now must wait it out in Saint-Etienne until the result of next Sunday’s Fiji versus Portugal match is known.

Australia are currently second in Pool C but a losing bonus point for the Fijians would be enough for them to clinch a quarter-final versus England in Marseille on October 15.

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In the meantime, the Wallabies have come under an avalanche of fierce criticism, something that England regular George endured in 2015 when they were eliminated at the pool stage in a tournament they were hosting.

“I wouldn’t wish that on anyone,” said George of the criticism that comes with an early World Cup exit. “Having been there in 2015 it’s a really tough position to be in. I know the impact it can have on your own mental health, but also your family and the people back home, the negative cycle that can come around with that, and we saw that.

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“A good friend of mine Will Skelton is captain of that team and this World Cup hasn’t gone the way that he has wanted and my heart goes out to him because he is a really good guy and I want the best for him, so I wouldn’t wish it on anyone and I am sure they will learn a huge amount from this experience.”

Having arrived at the World Cup with just one win in six matches, England were tipped to also struggle at France 2023. Instead, they won their three September games and were confirmed as Pool D winners with a match to spare.

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“One thing that has impressed me about this team is we have taken each week as it comes,” enthused George about the wins over Argentina, Japan and Chile before this Saturday’s pool finale against Samoa in Lille.

“If you look at the tournament as a whole, pre-Argentina there were a lot of doubts about this team and we really just focused on ourselves, knowing our position inside out but then trying to make the most out of becoming the best team we possibly can.

“That’s been our focus and that is what we did in 2019 (when England reached the final). It’s going to be the same again this time. Everything is going to be about putting on the best performance we possibly can against Samoa and then whatever comes after that we are going to make the most of that week too.

“We’re hugely optimistic as a team. We know we have got a lot of hard work ahead of us. At the same time, we want to make sure we bring the England fans on a journey with us and we have said that from the start.

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“We love that we have been able to put some smiles on faces over the last few weeks and hopefully we can continue to do that and in a few weeks’ time there could be some big smiles.”

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