England stuck two fingers up at the critics, says Jamie George

Jamie George looking fierce
George says his team-mates will be checking their phone for scores from the earlier matches - Getty Images/David Rogers

England have “stuck two fingers up” at their critics in the Six Nations but captain Jamie George insisted they won’t get complacent like they did in 2019.

Victory over France on Saturday night would realistically secure at least second place – England’s best finish in the championship since winning the title in 2020 – and the first Six Nations in four years with four wins.

England have a chance to build on their superb win over Ireland last time out – their most impressive victory under Steve Borthwick and their best since the 2019 World Cup semi-final victory over New Zealand.

“We got some things really right emotionally last week in the build-up and probably a lot of that came from sticking two fingers up to some people who were saying some bad things about us after the Scotland game,” George said.

George insists, however, that England have learnt from the complacency that set in before the 2019 World Cup final, where they were beaten by South Africa.

“Steve is very conscious of [the complacency],” he said. “I learned a big lesson in 2019 after the New Zealand performance around things like emotional highs and lows. Saturday [against Ireland] was probably as emotional a performance as we’ve had since 2019. What I’ve learned is that if you try and convince yourself that you’re fine, you’re going to feel fine, physically you’re going to be fine – then realistically you’re not.

“It was a physical Test match. Emotion was high so physically and emotionally you’re right up there. You need to allow yourself to be able to come down, to then pick back up and spike at the right time.

“In 2019, we believed the hype, kept living it for three or four days afterwards. You’re in a World Cup final week and I had every distraction under the sun. People wanting to come over, thousands of people asking you for tickets, people from school coming out the woodwork who I hadn’t spoken to for 10 years. It’s amazing, how cool is that, something that I’ve done has reconnected me with someone I went to primary school with. It’s great but it can be really distracting and I probably learnt that the hard way.

“We probably got it wrong in 2019… we definitely got it wrong in 2019. We didn’t reach the highs of the week before and what I learnt is that you need to be able to give yourself the space to get away from things and reflect. Do what you’ve got to do.”

To stand a chance of lifting the Six Nations title, England require Scotland to comfortably beat Ireland in Dublin before themselves dishing out a commanding defeat to Les Bleus in Saturday’s final match. Nonetheless, George has tasked his team with embracing that dream, which would rank as the “greatest achievement” in his England career thus far.

“You ignore it but I always think [winning the title] is the elephant in the room in professional sport,” he said. “Sometimes you might just brush things under the carpet a little bit. But why? Let’s talk about what the possibilities are, yes, but also not allow it to distract you. What might happen, what Ireland might do in the Scotland game is out of our control, what we can do is make sure that we use the possibility of winning a trophy as motivation that we’re in the right headspace come the game.

“I don’t see any issue with having an understanding of what might happen and if things go our way in terms of other results we need to be prepared. Because we’ll know that is happening, we’ll be checking our phones for the scores, you’d be lying if you said you weren’t going to be watching that game. Before every game so far this Six Nations, whenever we’ve been at 4.45pm I’m watching the 2.15pm kick-off because I like watching rugby so I’ll be watching – we’ve also got a vested interest.

“We can’t control what happens in Dublin but at the same time we have a great chance to go out and do something special. If it’s four wins and we don’t quite lift the trophy at the end then I think we still look back and reflect on a successful journey and tournament for this team.”

Borthwick has made one change to the starting XV that defeated Ireland, with the injured Immanuel Feyi-Waboso replaced by Elliot Daly. Among the replacements, Ethan Roots and Manu Tuilagi return, the latter perhaps for the final time in an England shirt ahead of a probable move to France next season. Wherever Tuilagi’s next move takes him, George believes the 32-year-old centre will go down as one of England’s greatest.

“This could be my last game for England, it could be some others’ last game for England,” said George. “There is no tomorrow in that respect, and sometimes it’s good to use that.

“But he will go down as one of the best centres to have ever played for England, I’m pretty confident to be able to say that.”

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