"A Coach in a Player’s Body" - Jamie George Misses George Ford's Leadership As England Tour Japan with Marcus & Fin Smith - Ruck

“A Coach in a Player’s Body” – Jamie George Misses George Ford’s Leadership As England Tour Japan with Marcus & Fin Smith

England captain Jamie George is excited to lead his side out on tour this Summer, with the squad currently situation in Tokyo ahead of their upcoming fixture against Japan. George is ready for a reunion with former England head coach Eddie Jones, who now heads up the Brave Blossoms after a brief stint with the Wallabies.

England take on Japan on June 22nd, in their first of three fixtures across this and next month. Steve Borthwick’s men will then travel down to New Zealand for tests against the All Blacks in July, as they wrap up a Summer of exciting test matches in Dunedin’s Forsyth Barr Stadium, and the spiritual home of the All Blacks; Eden Park.

Jamie George, Captain of England celebrates after winning during the Six Nations Match between England and Wales at Twickenham, London on 10 February 2024 (Photo: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK)

George met with the reporting journalists at Twickenham, for his first England media session of the 2024 Summer Series. The hooker was a late arrival to the England camp, as he joined the group in the second wave of players, following Saracens Premiership semi-final exit to eventual champions Northampton Saints. George expressed how he is excited with England’s first trip to New Zealand for 10 years, and name-checked some of the talents that have caught his eye upon first impressions in this Summer’s England camp.

““I am genuinely buzzing to get out there, it is great to have the whole squad together now with the finalists in, a couple of them were a bit dusty those Northampton boys looked like they had a good time on that parade. They have come in and really impressed me in terms of, they know how important it is we all get aligned, we all get on the same page because we have got a great opportunity over the next few weeks to go and do something special.”

Ollie Sleightholme of Northampton Saints on the break hands off Cameron Redpath of Bath Rugby during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby Final Match between Northampton Saints and Bath Rugby at Twickenham Stadium on 8 June 2024. Photo: Phil Mingo/PPAUK

“Ollie Sleightholme, I met him for the first time yesterday. I have played against him a lot. It is incredible how fast he is, in small side-games and seeing how pacy he is is scary. Manny Feyi-Waboso the same. The forwards, the way Ben Earl is changing the way back row is played at the minute. We have got great players, it is about making sure we are all very clear how we play as England and we are very clear about how we want to take Japan on and move forward to New Zealand.”

With six uncapped players named in their first touring squad, there are plenty of fresh faces that are eager to impress. However, England will also be without some notable leaders for the Summer tour, as George Ford and Ellis Genge have both been ruled out through injury. Jamie George will be looking through his ranks for a new vice-captain, and has his eye on his Sarries teammate Ben Earl to once again be that vocal voice in the red rose back-row.

“It is very black and white with Steve and the coaches in terms of what is expected. Each individual position, what is expected of you and when you pull on an England shirt you play in a certain way. You have got to be tough, you have got to be physical, you have got to work incredibly hard. Ben has gone away and worked really hard, but I think the Saracens coaches deserve credit for that too.

Ben Earl of England celebrates after winning during the Guinness Six Nations Match between England and Ireland at Twickenham Stadium, Twickenham, London on March 9th 2024. – PHOTO: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK

“The Saracens environment needs a lot of credit for that too because he probably had a tough time internationally, came back and worked really hard, got his head down and  worked with Callum Clark, the psychologist, who has been doing a brilliant job with him. All credit to him, he deserves all the plaudits and hopefully he can continue that rich vein of form he has found. He is a big player for this England team.”

“What he does in space, you could easily see him playing international rugby with a 12 or 13 on his back. He is that sort of player, his skill level, his speed but it is also the tough stuff he does. We are lucky to have in the forwards but I don’t know if there are any back rows like him in the world at the minute.

“Probably play against a few of them in the next few weeks, you would probably put Ardie Savea in that category  but there are some really good players across the board in this camp and it is a really good time to be involved.”

Jamie George of England during the Six Nations Match between England and Italy at Twickenham, London on 12 Feb 2023 (Photo: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK)

With Ford out of the picture, the 10 jersey can be pre-printed with the name ‘Smith’ across the back, as either Marcus or Fin will be the starting fly half for the tour. The shirt hangs within a tug-of-war between the Harlequin and Saint, and Jamie George believes that such an opening will bring the best out of his halfbacks.

“What a brilliant opportunity for to come in and really run the attack, be big leaders in this team. You don’t need me to talk about how brilliant they have been, both those guys have been impressive Marcus over a number of years and Fin this season has been so impressive, his maturity.

“I am really looking forward to working with him, we worked together in the Six Nations but at the same time he has got a big role to play now. George (Ford) was absolutely brilliant for us, he’s been brilliant for England for such a long time, but especially in the Six Nations for me, in terms of being that sounding board, and driving the attack.

“He’s like a coach in a player’s body that guy, so we’re obviously going to miss a player of his calibre. But we’ve got two amazing players to step up and we can share the load also throughout the more experienced guys in the backline, the likes of Henry Slade and those guys. George Furbank, I’m really looking forward to him stepping up into more of a leadership role too.”

Jamie George, Captain of England during the Six Nations Match between England and Wales at Twickenham, London on 10 February 2024 (Photo: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK)

George then went on to discuss Gabriel Oghre impact upon the squad, with the Bristol Bears hooker called up for his first England experiences. Oghre is a dynamic hooker that is explosive round the park, and is steadily becoming one of Ashton Gate’s favourited sons. With six tries to his name this season, Oghre was a key player for the Bears, who narrowly missed out on a place in the play-off semi-finals.

“I’ve been really impressed with Gabe, he’s been brilliant for Bristol, he’s obviously a different type of player. You talk about athletic, having an athletic team, he does stuff that hookers shouldn’t be able to do really. And his footwork, his natural feel for the game, he’d be very comfortable playing in the back-row also.

Gabriel Oghre of Bristol Bears during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby match between Leicester Tigers and Bristol Bears at Mattioli Woods Welford Road Stadium, Leicester on 27 April 2024. Photo: James Whitehead/PPAUK

He works very hard at his craft, and his lineout throwing and scrummaging has really come on a huge amount over the last couple of years, I think. He’s hugely excited to be on this tour, we want this environment to be incredible welcoming, and one where people feel like they can be at their best, so I really hope that we can do that.”

George has been showing the Bristol bears man the ropes of the England front row, and is excited to get the opportunity for future teachings and learnings across Japan and New Zealand. The hookers have only been together in camp for a couple of weeks, with the England captain hoping for future scrummaging and line-out sessions to better understand the Bears battler.

Try Celebrations for Gabriel Oghre of Bristol Bears during the Investec Champions Cup Match between Bristol Bears and Lyon at Ashton Gate on 9 December 2023. Photo: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK

“Yes, but more of that will come in Test weeks, what we’ve been doing, last week for example we worked really hard in terms of strength and conditioning, a lot of heated fitness sessions, that’s been documented pretty well.

“Those things were there but obviously when we’re line-out throwing, going through the line-outs here, the culture is a very different system from what he’s used to. So if I can help him in any way then obviously I will try to help him and put him onto the same page. But he doesn’t seem like he needs too much, because he’s a really great player with a great head on his shoulders, so excited to work with him.”