England hooker Jamie George.
Squad News

Jamie George provides boost for England with unexpected return to fitness

The Lions front row has been included in a 36-man training squad for Saturday’s visit of Japan.

ENGLAND HAVE BEEN lifted following a dismal start to the autumn by the unexpected return to fitness of hooker Jamie George.

George was expected to miss the entire Autumn Nations Cup campaign after breaking two metatarsals on club duty for Saracens against Leicester on 1 October, the initial prognosis a 10 to 12 period of recovery.

But the Lions front row has been included in a 36-man training squad for Saturday’s visit of Japan to Twickenham with England confirming he is available for selection.

It will be hoped George can show sufficient fitness to support starting hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie as Eddie Jones’ men look to rebound from a shock 30-29 loss to Argentina on Sunday.

Back three reinforcements have also arrived with Tommy Freeman making a successful return from a foot injury for Northampton against Exeter on Friday, while Jonny May is available after recovering from an elbow problem.

Freeman and May will put pressure on starting wings Joe Cokanasiga and Jack Nowell with the current backline showing a notable lack of pace.

Nowell, one of the better performers against Argentina, insists simple fixes should revive the autumn, claiming England were the architects of their own downfall in a flat series opener.

It was a first loss to the Pumas for 13 years having racked up 10 successive wins in the fixture, in the process registering a fifth defeat in nine Tests this year with tougher assignments against New Zealand and South Africa still to come.

The penalty count finished 10-10 and Nowell said: “If we sort out the discipline, it would have been a completely different game. We know exactly what we need to fix.

It’s bloody hard to play a game of rugby when you’re giving away that many penalties. They were kicking to the corner, taking three points, chipping away at you. It’s Test rugby and you have to win the game a few times over. But when we are making that hard for ourselves, we only have ourselves to blame.

“It’s not as if we don’t know what to do out there, we know exactly what to do. We’re just not doing it.

“We weren’t looking at each other in the changing room after the game and thinking ‘how have we lost that’. We know why we lost that and probably deserved to.

“The confidence is there among the team. We’re going to stay together and stay tight.”

Piercing the clouds hanging over Twickenham was Manu Tuilagi’s eagerly-awaited return at outside centre after a year out with hamstring and knee injuries.

The hard-running 31-year-old made several dents on Argentina’s defence before limping off because of a blister and Nowell was delighted to be on the pitch with his long-term friend.

“It was so good to have Manu back. He’s an unbelievable player and he has worked hard to get back,” said Nowell, whose own international career has suffered from repeat visits to the treatment room.

“When you’ve got someone like that on the inside of you, he sucks players in, he draws players, but he is also very good in defence as well.

“We didn’t want to jinx it so we didn’t say anything to each other because over so many years we’ve been like ships in the night, unable to get on the field together. We enjoyed a cuddle after the game!

“He’s just got a blister and it’s not too bad. The physios are good at looking after things like that so he is all good. He’s had way worse!”

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