Jamie George: Saracens hooker talks isolation, England, team-mates and dogs

Jamie George scrums down against Wales during the Six Nations
Jamie George (centre) won his 49th England cap in the Six Nations victory over Wales in March

England and Saracens hooker Jamie George joined the Rugby Union Weekly podcast this week to talk lockdown fitness, British and Irish Lions ambitions, inspirational team-mates - and inadvertently naming his dog after a Manchester City defender.

How’s isolation working out for you?

Isolation’s all right actually. Weirdly I am quite enjoying the lockdown. I managed to get a very makeshift gym installed into my garage. If I hadn’t done that I could have put on 20kg during this lockdown! I am trying to turn it the other way.

You have got a dog as well to take out haven’t you?

It is nice to be able to use your hour of exercise to take him out. He is a Hungarian Vizla called Otamendi. No, I am not a Man City fan. If I was going to call him after a footballer I would call him Grealish. I was actually quite keen to call him Wesley, after Aston Villa’s new striker, but my partner Kate wasn’t so keen, so he is Otto, full name Otamendi.

Eddie Jones said earlier this week that the 2023 World Cup squad could be 60% different from the one in 2019. How confident are you of making the cut?

It is going to be tough. I will be 32 by the time of the next World Cup, but a lot of players are still playing international rugby late into their 30s and my position at hooker it is a bit generous to older players so hopefully I can cling on in there. I have good grip strength! Anything on top of my career so far, I have been very lucky, would be great to be honest.

You are staying with Saracens next season despite their demotion to the Championship. Do you think the step down could help you prolong your career?

It is a tough balancing act. Obviously you want to be playing top-flight rugby and hopefully we will get that through internationals. Saracens are brilliant at looking after players and keeping them fit, so we should be able to have breaks, do different things off the field, rest up a little bit and hopefully it will add some time onto our careers. A big ambition of mine is to get on the next Lions tour to South Africa in 2021.

Schalk Brits and Jamie George, Saracens team-mates, meet after England play South Africa in June 2018
Schalk Brits and Jamie George, Saracens team-mates, meet after England played South Africa in June 2018

Who has been an important team-mate in your career?

Schalk Brits joined Saracens the year I went full time and then John Smit arrived and was here for two years. They were two very different hookers in terms of style of play; John was probably the best scrummaging hooker who I have played with or against and was very good leader, while Schalk was a freak with some of his abilities in the loose. I tried to pick off little bits of both their games.

They were great blokes as well, investing a lot of time in me as a youngster and I will forever be grateful for that.

What about on the coaching side?

I played with Steve Borthwick for four or five years as a kid when he was a captain, but his impact on my outlook on my game as a coach, initially at Saracens and then with England, has been huge. International rugby can be tough, but his little conversations have been key in keeping my spirits high.

Which of your team-mates will be hating being in social isolation and who will be loving it?

Richard Barrington is the most sociable bloke. He is world renowned for being an absolute legend. Any time you mention anyone in the world of rugby, he happens to have had a beer with him. You might be talking about Beauden Barrett and he pipes up saying what a great bloke he is and how he was out with him the other weekend. I think he is losing his mind slowly in his house, constantly asking for zoom meetings with the boys.

Mako Vunipola will be very happy sat at home, looking after his little one and he has another one on the way. He will be doing absolutely nothing.

Who do you expect to make themselves a presence in the England team for the next Rugby World Cup?

That back row group is inundated with class players. At my club Saracens, Ben Earl broke through this Six Nations, and he is a freak who brings an X-factor which we will see on the international stage.

It's going to be interesting how Max Malins goes on loan at Bristol, which will suit his style of rugby, and lock Joel Kpoku is also a brilliant young player. Next year will be good for Joel as he is sticking around and will be a leader at Saracens, while Nick Isiekwe remember is only 21. It is scary to see the type of athlete that is coming through at the moment.

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