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'Will push him hard': The Saracens verdict on George England snub

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by PA)

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Saracens boss Mark McCall believes England supporters haven’t seen the last of Jamie George in a Test shirt. The 2019 World Cup final hooker was omitted from the training squad that assembled last Monday in London for a mini-camp ahead of the upcoming November internationals. Despite being a recent Lions tour pick, Eddie Jones had no place for George in the 45-man England squad but club boss McCall reckons the setback will bring the best out of the soon-to-be 31-year-old who has 59 caps for his country. 


George wasn’t the only headline Saracens omission from the squad as the Vunipola brothers were also excluded, as was the injured Elliot Daly who won’t be back in action until late November at the earliest due to a procedure on a shin issue. England are due to host Tonga, Australia and South Africa at Twickenham in November and with the official elite player squad set to be confirmed on October 18, McCall isn’t ruling out the involvement of the likes of George and the Vunipolas when Jones next takes his pick. 

On the Lions tour, George not only became the first Englishman to skipper the tourists since Phil Vickery had the honour versus Western Province in 2009, but he has also become the first hooker from England to have ever skippered the famed tourists. That responsibility for the third match in South Africa versus the Sharks wasn’t enough to elevate him into the Test team selection and he has since been overlooked by England.

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Speaking at the weekly Saracens media briefing ahead of Saturday’s Premiership trip to Leicester, McCall took exception to the suggestion that the adversity currently faced by George is something new for the player, but the coach insisted the opposite was the truth, that he has been in the position of being on the outside and having to fight his way through. 

“It’s interesting, it’s almost like you said Jamie has had a smooth ride or something,” he said. “If you remember, Jamie’s journey at our club wasn’t like that at all. He was behind Schalk Brits and behind John Smit and had to bide his time and wait. He showed hunger and desire to get past them eventually and he ended up getting selected ahead of Schalk Brits for finals and that kind of thing as a youngish fella.

“With England, he was behind Dylan Hartley when he was captain and made a whole lot of bench appearances, so he had to bide his time and fight past Dylan as well and now he has been given a new challenge. He is going to stand up to that challenge and in the long run, it is going to be good for him. It will push him hard to establish him back in that England squad again.”


McCall went on to explain the dynamics as he sees it regarding the England situation. “When Eddie and I met, which was probably a month before the announcement, we discussed each player but he didn’t tell me who was going to be in the squad and who was not going to be in the squad. So we have had a conversation and for some of our players, it was disappointing but knowing those players and knowing how motivated they are to play for England, Eddie wants to see a response and I am sure we will see that. 

“First and foremost we want them to play for their country and this is a provisional EPS squad. There is a proper EPS squad going to be announced around October 18 so let’s see what happens with that squad and let’s see if anybody has the chance to catch his eye in between. 

“Eddie knows the quality of the players, he has worked with them for a long time and if he sees what he hopes to see, which is the hunger and drive which is necessary to play at that level. Then hopefully they have got the opportunity to get back in the squad.”



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