James Crombie/INPHO England hooker Jamie George.
Best of Friends

'When I'm not playing against them, I watch Ireland with a smile on my face'

England hooker Jamie George will go up against some close friends in Dublin.

CLOSE FRIENDS CAN be the fiercest of rivals.

Sometimes it’s actually the familiarity that ensures there’s an edge when two mates are in opposition to each other.

England hooker Jamie George understands the feeling. He has got to know Irish players such as Peter O’Mahony and Conor Murray on Lions tours and counts them as good friends these days.

But George says those relationships don’t diminish the rivalry between Ireland and England in the slightest. He supports his friends when they’re not in direct opposition but for tomorrow’s huge Six Nations game in Dublin, all of that will be put to one side.

“It’s as big a Test match as you’re going to play in on Paddy’s weekend here,” said 32-year-old George.

“Look, when I’m not playing against them, I watch Ireland playing with a smile on my face. I’m really close with a lot of those guys and friendly with a lot of those guys but I won’t be playing with a smile on my face come Saturday at 5 o’clock.

“They’re a great team and a great bunch of guys but at the same time, the rivalry is certainly still there.”

While he regularly stays in touch with some of the Irish players, George said the contact has eased off in recent days as they all focus on business.

“I spoke to Conor briefly at the start of the week but towards the end of the week, we sort of leave that.

“We left that with, ‘We’ll look forward to a Guinness after the game regardless of the result’ so I’ll look forward to that.”

George and his English team-mates have had plenty to keep their minds occupied this week following their 53-10 hammering at the hands of France in Twickenham last time out.

jamie-george-and-johnny-sexton James Crombie / INPHO George with Johnny Sexton last year. James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

He said the hurt is lingering but that England have figured out exactly what went wrong. It stings that they were second best in terms of physicality, an area they pride themselves on, but George believes there is now a clear plan to get at Ireland.

It was a little jarring to hear him mention England’s “rebuild” a couple of times – it seems crazy that an English team with all their resources can use that crutch – but George is convinced things can be much better within the space of a week.

The English are clear underdogs, yet George is hoping to have another memorable day at the Aviva Stadium.

“I’ve been really lucky to have been in some great wins domestically and in internationals here,” he said.

“For England, obviously the 2019 result [when England won 32-20]. The year we played Leinster in the quarter-final [2020 when Saracens won 25-17] was really special given the circumstances Saracens were going through at the time.

“We also played Munster here in the semi-final a few years ago [in 2019] and that was, again, a historic victory for a club like us.

“I’ve had some really good memories here, but I’ve also had some tough ones, so I’m aware that both can be thrown at us.”

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