Jamie George could force his way into England reckoning says Rugby World Cup winner
PUBLISHED: 09:02 07 May 2015
World Cup winner Neil Back believes Jamie George can crank up the pressure on Dylan Hartley and Tom Youngs in the battle for England’s hooker jersey after an eye-catching season with Saracens.
Back joined a panel of judges at Premiership Rugby’s offices to narrow down an all-star shortlist for the Green Flag Forward of the Season award, and while Welwyn Garden City-born George was among the conversation, he narrowly missed out on a spot.
But it is testament to the 24-year-old that he was mentioned in the same breath as nominees such as Nathan Hughes and Samu Manoa, after a campaign that has seen him supplant the injured Schalk Brits in style.
No other Premiership Rugby player in the tight five has made as many tackles as George has this year – his 188 good enough for sixth-place on the overall list according to the Opta stats.
Neither Hartley or Youngs enjoyed a stellar Six Nations campaign with England and according to Back, George has begun to work his way into the argument.
“He was No.3 for a long time with John Smit there and then No.2 in the shadow of Schalk Brits, and now he’s forcing his case for Saracens – he’s been a near ever-present this year,” said Back, who is chairing the panel deciding on Green Flag’s Forward of the Season competition, with the winner revealed at the Aviva Premiership Rugby Awards on May 20 at the Park Lane Hilton, London.
“That background would be something I champion, coming through the school system and then England U16, 18s and 20s, and also through the Saracens Academy system.
“We’ve got a club producing homegrown talent which is now forcing his way into the chat for the forward of the season shortlist.
“We need competition for all places in England and he’s certainly given that to the hookers, and they’ll be very aware of that.
“He’s got a huge work rate and the competition has helped him excel, he wants to win that shirt and make his own.”
Another Saracens in Maro Itoje will unlikely have to wait long for his appearance in an end-of-year shortlist, the 20-year-old having skipped the club to LV= Cup success already this year.
But Back insists Itoje need be in no rush as he bids to cement himself as a regular at Allianz Park.
“He’s got to learn, he’s got to wait for his opportunity and my advice to a young player is do all you can to be the best that you can be and aspire to be that every day – then you’ll never fail through lack of effort,” he added.
“You’ll be surprised when you ask someone how much they’re willing to give, you can’t do it on your own.
“He’s a young player with a lot of talent, but there are a lot of young players with that same type of talent.”
Green Flag - proud partner of Aviva Premiership Rugby – has revealed the shortlist for the Green Flag Forward of the Season award. The winner will be announced on May 20. Follow us @GreenFlagUK or facebook.com/GreenFlagUK – www.greenflag.com
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