Jamie George explains how England must evolve from ‘strong foundations’ built at World Cup

Jamie George (right) believes England are in a good place moving forward  (Getty Images)
Jamie George (right) believes England are in a good place moving forward (Getty Images)

Jamie George has conceded that England will have to evolve to consistently match the best sides in the world, but believes that the team have built “strong foundations” at the Rugby World Cup.

Steve Borthwick’s side overcame a disastrous build-up to the tournament to finish third in France, narrowly falling short in their semi-final against South Africa.

While a number of senior figures have bowed out at the end of the tournament, the bulk of England’s squad will remain intact as they begin the next World Cup cycle against Italy in the Six Nations in February.

And George is confident that England are in a good place to build upon an encouraging campaign.

“I think our foundations are strong,” said the hooker, who turned 33 last weekend. “What we’ve done, and the evolution hopefully people have seen over this tournament, has shown that we can fight, we can put our best foot forward against the best teams in the world. Ultimately, we want to be number one.

“There’s a lot of great, hungry young players. There’s a lot of incredible talent in English rugby at the minute. The man at the top deserves a lot of credit. Steve has come under a lot of heat. Ultimately, the entire way through that, we were very confident in what he could do.

“Like I said, our foundations are strong and I think that’s really positive for us. I think we know the attack needs to evolve. Richard Wigglesworth has done an incredible job over the last few months to develop that. I think we’ve shown in parts that we can cause teams some difficulty. It’s going to be a focus point going forward, whilst also making sure that our defence and set piece in particular keeps building.”

England secured bronze at the World Cup (Getty Images)
England secured bronze at the World Cup (Getty Images)

England’s Rugby Football Union (RFU) is currently working on changes to the Professional Game Partnership (PGP) that shapes the running of the domestic and international game in England, which is up for renewal next summer.

Part of the revamped agreement is expected to be the introduction of "hybrid” central contracts that will afford England access to 25 top players more often.

It should allow Borthwick greater control over the core of his squad after years of tensions between club and country.

However there has so far been little clarity over the details of the plans – English rugby’s governing body have suggested that nothing will be put in place without sign-off from the Rugby Players’ Association (RPA).

Steve Borthwick (right) could be afforded more access to his players (Getty Images)
Steve Borthwick (right) could be afforded more access to his players (Getty Images)

George believes that players could be consulted directly to ensure that any developments are for the benefit of the sport as a whole.

“We just need a bit more clarity around it,” George stressed. “Obviously there are a lot of whispers around it, and it is hard for us because you hear the whispers and you might get excited about it, but at the same time we have to focus on the job at hand.

“If those central contracts or playing contracts do come in then I have every confidence that Steve will do it in the absolute right way that does not take away from the club game. That’s something that means a lot to me.

“I think it could be a great thing for English rugby but it has to be done right. Hopefully there will be plenty of player influence on that as well, because there are a lot of very intelligent guys in this changing room who have a lot of things to say and care a huge amount about the English game and its development going forward.

“You can see that in the way that a lot of the older guys are speaking about the future of this team. Hopefully the RFU use us and we’re heavily involved in those conversations.”

Jamie George hopes that England’s players are consulted over possible plans (Getty Images)
Jamie George hopes that England’s players are consulted over possible plans (Getty Images)

Another ongoing discussion within the PGP concerns the Championship and how the efficacy of the English second tier might be maximised.

Former Worcester Warriors and Sale Sharks coach Steve Diamond has joined a working group assessing the feasibility of a total revamp into a league tentatively titled “Premiership 2”. The group is led by Conor O’Shea, the RFU’s Executive Director of Performance Rugby.

The final details of the PGP are expected to be hammered out over the next couple of months.