"They are going to know who we are" - England Captain Jamie George fires warning shot at All Blacks ahead of First Test - Ruck

“They are going to know who we are” – England Captain Jamie George fires warning shot at All Blacks ahead of First Test

Tensions are rising upon New Zealand’s South Island, as England and the All Blacks get set to explode onto the pitch this Saturday in Dunedin. Having surveyed the structural support of the Forsyth Barr Stadium throughout today’s captains runs, the home of the Highlanders may require a roof reinforcement, with emotions heading to boiling point amidst the freezing Antarctic winds.

Whilst nerves would be riding high ahead of any Test match between England and New Zealand, All Blacks wing Sevu Reece heightened the English anger when admitting to not knowing who Tommy Freeman or Manny Feyi-Waboso were in a mid-week press conference. The Crusader’s in-adverted aggravation of the English camp prompted a response from Jamie George, and the skipper laid down the marker. George made the mission objective abundantly clear to his touring teammates.

The Saracen vowed to leave an impression upon the All Blacks before storming their Eden Park fortress in a week’s time. George is armed and ready ahead of braving the smaller Otago outpost, and channelled his inner Fort Minor, to make the All Blacks ‘remember the name’ after the opening Test. Speaking in an England media session after arriving upon the South Island stronghold, George said;

“It’s an interesting one isn’t it. I’m not in their camp, I don’t know whether there is any mind games in what they are saying. I know that that was certainly said in 2017 on the Lions tour. The message then was by the end of that series they are certainly going to know who we are. That is certainly the message again from me and this England team.”

“I know Jason Ryan briefly and I know that he will have done his research on all of our front row forwards and our line-out operators, so I know for a fact he knows who we are. We are a team that always wants to know our opposition.

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)

“We want to know them inside out because we want to be able to pick them apart. That’s ultimately how we see the game, if they see the game differently and they want to focus on themselves and that’s great. Go and do your thing, we’ll see who works out best on Saturday.”

Despite not being on the radar of his opposite man Sevu Reece, Jamie George certainly knows the strengths that Exeter flyer Manny Feyi-Waboso brings to the pitch. With break-taking athleticism and an excellent reading of the game, the medical doctor in training has retained his place upon the wing following a solid showing against Japan in Tokyo. Speaking on what the England camp wants to see from Feyi-Waboso, George said;

“That’s the message anyway. He’s picked for a reason, he’s got absolute superpowers in his body that I would love to have and I will never have. Go out there and do it. Don’t be afraid of holding back. All we want to make sure we do is throw everything at this, whether they know who we are or not. Doesn’t fuss me whatsoever.”

Last Kick Drop Goal celebrations from Marcus Smith with Immanuel Feyi-Waboso of England to win the match during the Guinness Six Nations Match between England and Ireland at Twickenham Stadium, Twickenham, London on March 9th 2024. – PHOTO: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK

With pre-match trepidation reaching a fever-pitch in the quaint town of Dunedin, the small dockyard community that surrounds the stadium is battening down the hatches ahead of this Saturday. The tranquil river Leith flows peacefully for now, but underneath the calm exterior of the Otago town, lays a time bomb or raw emotion, that is set to send shockwaves through the Forsyth Barr stadium at approximately 6:50pm NZT.

At this time, the All Blacks will be performing their traditional pre-match haka, to envoke intimidation into the hearts and minds of the English tourists. However, with England in a promising position to record a historic first win upon Kiwi soil since 2003, a response could well be on the cards akin to the immortalised ‘V’ formation of the 2019 Rugby World Cup semi-final.

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LONDON, ENGLAND – OCTOBER 24: In this handout photograph provided by World Rugby, The New Zealand All Blacks prepare to perfrom the Haka during the 2015 Rugby World Cup Semi Final match between South Africa and New Zealand at Twickenham Stadium on October 24, 2015 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Handout/Richard Heathcote – World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images)

Whilst Jamie George admitted to not have the ability to smirk like his former Saracens teammate Owen Farrell, the England skipper did not reject a possible statement of intent, when England face the ceremonial Moari dance before Saturday’s game.

“We are still having conversations. It’s a players’ decision. Steve (Borthwick) has said that it is entirely on us what we decide to do but we will probably make a decision tomorrow.”

“It did at the time (make a difference in 2019), absolutely. The most powerful thing for me was looking up at the big screen and seeing our captain smirking. I don’t think I can pull off the Farrell smirk! I think the most important thing regardless of what you do to haka and regardless of what happens before the game, the first ten minutes of a Test match sets the tone.

“What we did was that we put our necks on the line in terms of doing something different and challenging and then we backed it up. That’s going to be the most important thing regardless of what we do.”

“It will mostly revolve around me and the senior leadership group. I will speak to the vice captains (Maro Itoje, Joe Marler, Ben Earl and Henry Slade) and see what they think. I have had a couple of conversations already and we’ll put it out to the group and they will all be on board with whatever we decide.”

There is an informed understanding of the haka within the England camp, as two of the squad members grew up in New Zealand and know full well on what it represents. the back-row duo of Chandler Cunningham-South and Ethan Roots called Aotearoa home before moving over to England, with Roots especially aware of the significance with Maori family upon his mother’s side.

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

“The most important thing for me with regards to this conversation is, I grew up as a kid loving the All Blacks play. The haka was a massive part of that, and I loved that, and it’s a massive part of the occasion.” George said.

“The thrill, and you see the excitement of the guys who haven’t faced it before when Ethan Roots was talking about it, you see it on their faces. That’s absolutely brilliant, and nothing that we do should ever take away from that.

“We respect what they do, we respect why they do the haka, we’ll make sure that we are focussing on getting the first moments of the game. Our first contacts, our first scrum, our first line-out play, getting those things right, they’ll be at the forefront of our minds.”

Whilst the likes of Feyi-Waboso, George Furbank, Marcus Smith and Ollie Lawrence have expressed their respect for the All Blacks in this week’s media sessions, Jamie George is ready to rip into his opponents regardless of their aura. The Saracen is welcoming the challenge and is out to guide his team to a historical first triumph against the All Blacks upon New Zealand soil since 2003.

“Walk towards it, embrace it, love it. What an amazing opportunity we have got here. It was 2003 the last time England won here. We were at a charity dinner before we left and Steve (Borthwick) was on that (2003) tour and they were asking about it. I said to the boys, ‘we’ve got an opportunity to do something really special so that in 20 years’ time when we are sat at one of those dinners, not really wanting to be there, they are going to be asking us about the victory’.

“I’ve been past some really amazing wins abroad in big games and it is not just necessarily the result, what you remember as a player is the lead up, the week and the build up towards the big game and how people speak.

“This week has got that feel, we really have. I know you will have spoken to every captain on a Thursday before a Test match and they will say ‘we have got the prep right’. We have. We have spoken really well, we have backed it up on the field, we are feeling good, we are feeling fit, we are feeling ready to go and we want to take these guys on.”