Adam Hathaway basks in the glory of a prediction he made more than two years ago and wonders if anyone talks to each other anymore.
Back in October 2016 RugbySpy reported back from Saracens’ Champions Cup win in Toulon that Jamie George could be the real deal as a hooker. And we will take all the Nostradamus comparisons and slaps on the back right now.
We don’t get many predictions right, especially with four-legged animals at horse or dog tracks, but we got this one absolutely bang on.
We are now going to put it out there, Jamie George could turn out to be the greatest hooker to ever walk the earth.
By God, he can play. If he is not Eddie Jones’ starting No.2 at the World Cup, the world has gone, officially, stark raving insane.
If there was any doubt that George is the real deal it was banished for all time at Allianz Park on Saturday as his side secured a European semi-final with a 56-27 shellacking of Glasgow. Off the scale does not do him justice.
He might not look like a rock star – but he plays like one.
We have seen some decent rugby players over the decades and when we are in pipe and slippers mode we reckon George will be right up there with the best of them.
The European weekend taught us a few things. Ulster’s Jacob Stockdale is human, as he showed when he dropped the ball over the line against Leinster, and French rugby was back to its brilliant bonkers best in Toulouse’s win over Racing 92. That was as mad a game as you have ever seen and a lesson in how to play with 14 men.
Luke Pearce grew about six inches in height in that game as a referee, in the crazy stadium in Paris, and Munster proved they are a force to be reckoned with by turning over Edinburgh away.
But Saracens put in the statement performance.
Take away a cheap late try and an early brilliant one for the Scots and they would have been nowhere near the English champions. For the middle 75 minutes it was absolute carnage and George was at the centre of it. The middle of the front row, half-back, wing and centre of it.
And if there is a better player in the air than Liam Williams then you have a better scouting network than RugbySpy and watch more rugby than us. And we watch everything.
But back to the basics and back to George……….
Throwing in at the line out, scrummaging strongly – they are givens for hookers and George does them brilliantly. His line out throwing has been so good recently that you wouldn’t be surprised to see him pitch up on the oche at Ally Pally when the World Darts Championship is on in the winter.
We’d back him to beat Bobby George, no relation, at arrows.
The debate about who is England’s best hooker is now officially dead in the water. Dylan Hartley has been fantastic but George is the man now. Even if Hartley comes back for the World Cup it will surely be merely as cover off the bench.
There are times when you tread this treadmill for over two and a half decades when you think ‘nah’. But George is special. He can play.
George has had to bide his time with England though. He won his first 19 England caps off the bench before finally getting a starting gig against Samoa in November 2017. In between he had started all three Tests for the British & Irish Lions in New Zealand and won RugbySpy a significant wager for doing so. Thanks for that Jamie.
On Saturday he played like a cross between Peter Wheeler, Sean Fitzpatrick, Bobby Windsor, Hika Reid, Jerry Guscott and Gareth Edwards.
Back in the day all hookers had to do was push and throw, look like a barrel and drink one after the match, now they have to have an all-court game and George nails everything including being spectacular at the nuts and bolts stuff.
He did his Edwards impression when he fed David Strettle for a try, was also at it by having a hand in at least three others and last night former fat boys were calling for him to be drummed out of the Front Row Union.
Guess what? He is a rugby player, and he is a brilliant one. He is a bloody good bloke too and happy to chat to hapless hacks looking for a line for Monday papers.
Mark McCall, the Saracens director of rugby, who would be RugbySpy’s choice to take over with England but he wouldn’t touch it with a barge pole, agreed.
The softly-spoken Irishman is not given to hyperbole, we are – that’s the business we are in – , but he was sitting next to George when he told us this.
“He was absolutely magnificent,” said McCall. That is a bit like saying Gregg Wallace likes a pudding or that Line of Duty is a decent bit of TV.
“Everyone knows how good a thrower and scrummager he is, but he sees the game better than any other hooker. He has the skill set take advantage of what he sees.”
You can say that again.
The frightening thing for the rest of Europe is that Saracens have Mako Vunipola and Owen Farrell, who was in the labour ward with his missus on Saturday, to come back.
George said: “At the beginning of the season, we’re fully aware of what we want to do. Yes, we are still aware of it at this stage of the season. At the start of the year, we said we want to be one of the best teams in Europe, consistently. It was pretty clear we wanted to have a real good crack at this. To be the only unbeaten team in the tournament is a statement of intent.
“I honestly think we are quite a long way off where we need to be, which is disappointing, but also exciting at the same time. We can’t be too hard on what we did but we were good with the ball and not so good without it.
The frightening thing for anyone who fancies having a crack at being England’s starting No.2 in the World Cup in Japan, in the games that really matter, has got no chance.
George is nailed on. He does what it says on the tin and he is one of the good blokes.
He is a special player.
Thanks to our colleague Hugh Godwin from The i newspaper for alerting us to the latest outbreak of bonkersness.
Saracens win over Glasgow, and Munster’s victory at Edinburgh, means that the teams with four Champions Cup titles between them will meet in a must-attend semi-final at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry on 20 April.
The ground holds more than 30,000 punters and will be packed to the rafters when Sarries host the Munster army.
That is Saracens from London.
It is an easy gig normally the Ricoh if you are heading there from London. Hop on the rattler from Euston and either get the Noddy train from Coventry to Coventry Arena, jump in a cab or hop on a bus.
Not this time.
As Godders informed us on Sunday Euston station is shut that day.
You can get there from Marylebone but that is round the houses. If you want to sit on your sofa feel free but yet again the paying customers who actually go to matches are being stiffed.
I didn’t take Mystic Meg to work out that Saracens had a decent chance of playing a last four game there.
One day, maybe one day, people who run the transport system and those who put on big games might talk to each other.
But don’t hold your breath.