FEATURE INTERVIEW | Jamie George
Jamie George has been involved with Saracens for as long as he can remember. Few players end up representing the club they fanatically supported as a child, but this is exactly the case for the front-rower.
The England hooker grew up in a rugby mad family from Northampton, and while most teenagers were more interested in going to watch the likes of Manchester United and Liverpool, George was a season ticket holder at Saracens’ former home Vicarage Road.
George has enjoyed a successful career winning 65 caps for England and a further three for the British & Irish Lions. But three weeks ago the 31-year-old played his 250th match for Saracens during their victory over Bristol Bears at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium which he views as one of the biggest honours of his career.
“It was a massive honour to play my 250th game for Saracens,” he said. “I’ve grown up supporting the club. I’ve sat in many a cold November evening watching Saracens at Vicarage Road.
“I said to the boys I never dreamt of playing one game for Saracens let alone 250. It was a huge honour, and a great day especially given it was at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, but also to share it with Nick Isiekwe.
“He’s a good friend of mine and someone I admire greatly. For us to do that together was the most special part.
“There was a game that I remember vividly, we played Newcastle at home. We lost but Newcastle had the likes of Jonny Wilkinson, and Matt Burke. I think members of our coaching staff were also playing like Ian Peel.
“That game sticks in my mind. I’ve been going for years and I grew up playing for Hertford Rugby Club who are massive supporters of Saracens.
“Despite my dad playing for Northampton, and my family being from Northampton it was always Saracens for me.”
George joined the Saracens academy as a 14-year-old and made his first team debut in 2009. During his illustrious career with the club George has been privileged to work with a plethora of world class players but two in particular stand out.
“I’ve been really lucky to play with Schalk Brits and John Smit who were both great mentors for me,” he said. “The biggest influence I had was the group of players I came through with who we call the class of 2008 with the likes of Owen Farrell, George Kruis, Jackson Wray, and Will Fraser.
“We all came through the academy together and we have all driven each other forward which was led by Andy Edwards the S&C coach and Mike Hynard the head of the academy.
“They developed an environment where we were constantly pushing each other to be better, and I think we’ve been hugely successful with the club.”
Saracens have enjoyed a relatively successful season since being promoted back into the Gallagher Premiership from the Championship. Mark McCall’s side are second in the table, while they are also in the quarter-finals of the European Challenge Cup. While most clubs would be happy with that, George insists there is far more to come from Saracens, who he believes will have to keep improving if they are to finish the season with silverware.
“It’s been a bit of a mixed bag,” said George when asked to assess the season so far.
“We’ve had some good performances, and we’ve had some average performances. There have been parts in games where we’ve gone well, but we haven’t been able to connect all that up for 80 minutes.
“What we are looking for is to finally click as a team for 80 minutes. That’s what I’ve learned from my experiences; yes, ultimately, we want to win silverware at the end of the season, but fundamentally we’ve got to stay present and make sure we capitalise on every opportunity we get to train.
“I think there are some technical bits in and around our attack and defence where we need to get better. We can never fault our intent.
“We’ve got a group who are hungry, who are really keen to learn and apply themselves but the big thing that we are working on is little things that will eventually lead to big things.
“There are a few things which will make us a team who are going to be really difficult to play against.
“I think there’s so much value in Premiership points especially as we are getting to the business end of the season,” he said.