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George: I feel for Hartley

Jamie George says he has "no hard feelings" towards Dylan Hartley after being on the receiving end of a head-butt that cost Northampton's firebrand captain his World Cup chance.

Uncapped hooker George has replaced Hartley in England's 50-man World Cup training squad, and he celebrated his call-up by scoring one try and creating another as Saracens were crowned Aviva Premiership champions by beating Bath 28-16 at Twickenham.

England head coach Stuart Lancaster reacted swiftly to Hartley's four-week ban, imposed following his citing for the George incident during a Premiership semi-final clash eight days ago, by removing him from World Cup contention.

Hartley, who has an appalling disciplinary record, cannot play again until after England's World Cup opener against Fiji on September 18, and George will now report for pre-tournament training duty in three weeks' time alongside fellow hookers Tom Youngs, Luke Cowan-Dickie and Rob Webber.

"You have to feel for him," George said.

"It is very difficult circumstances that he has got himself in. I have no hard feelings towards him. It was in the heat of the moment and it was something I am sure he will regret.

"But it has given me this opportunity and I am going to try and take it as well as I can.

"I have got to make the most of the opportunity I have got. I am just going to get my head down and try to work as hard as I can. Hopefully, I can develop as a player and if that happens then anything can happen.

" I can't control selection and all the rest of it, but what I can control is trying to develop myself, trying to develop the way I play and learn from the amazing people around me."

It is barely a fortnight since 24-year-old George failed to make Lancaster's first squad cut, a decision that surprised many given his outstanding form, but the contrast of emotions could now hardly be greater.

"It has been pretty manic, pretty crazy," George said.

"Graham Rowntree (England forwards coach) rang me before the squad was going to be announced and just said it was a close call but I wasn't going to be involved.

"It was very disappointing but at the same time I understood the reasons behind it.

"Mark McCall (Saracens rugby director) then rang me after the semi-final and just said it was going to be announced that I was going to be in the squad and how proud he was of me. That was probably one of the best phone calls I have ever received.

"We have got a wealth of very good hookers in the country. You could see that with the squad selection and I just needed to make sure that I kept playing as well as I could.

"To win a trophy and then go into camp obviously gives you a spring in your step. Hopefully, I have gained respect of some of the guys there already, and if I haven't then that is my aim during the first couple of weeks I am in camp."

George claimed one of Saracens' tries against Bath through a gallop to the line, then he delivered a scoring pass for wing Chris Wyles as they effectively wrapped the game up through a blistering first-half display.

"You can imagine, losing two finals (Premiership and European) last season was not very nice. There was a serious amount of hurt and we had a long summer to think about it," George said.

"Everything that happened for us last year happened very easily. We lost three games, or however many it might have been, and we didn't really have too many setbacks injury-wise.

"We were smashing the whole way through and then we got to the final and we didn't put in a performance we knew we could be proud of.

"This season we've had the highs and lows, which is what makes it that much sweeter. It has been a journey for us."


From Belfast Telegraph