Jamie George lifts the lid on life on Tour
Ahead of his second start on Tour, the Lions hooker spills the beans on his fear of heights, fines on Tour and just who tied the backs shoelaces together in training this week.
“This is the first time that I have actually let my parents buy the jersey.”
The Saracens front-rower also chats finally relenting and allowing his parents to buy a Lions jersey and whether Kyle Sinckler is in fact a good or a bad roommate.
Q. Hi there Jamie, I happen to know you are something of a coffee connoisseur, so who are your go to coffee buddies, any of the lads you have bonded with outside the England boys?
A. I spent a lot of time with Hoggy, and unfortunately he has left which is a big loss for us, both from a rugby point of view and on the coffee scene in particular. Peter O’Mahony, Conor Murray and I have been going for a few coffees as well, that is really what this Tour is about. I have shared a room with Peter twice now, and when you share you end up going for a coffee and those moments are important and make you gel as a squad a lot quicker.
Q. Is Peter a good roommate then?
A. He is very good roommate, very tidy, but he is also a very angry man so you have to be careful! He certainly has a short fuse, but I have been getting on very well with him, he’s a top man. I am currently rooming with Mako (Vunipola) here in Rotorua, and the rumours are true – he is a deep snorer but that’s fine, I am a deep sleeper so I get on with it.
Q. Speaking of snoring, I saw the Live Story on Instagram of Ben Te’o getting fed up with Kyle Sinckler’s loud sleeping when he was his roommate, was Kyle happy about that?
A. Kyle is a very relaxed bloke so I am sure he is fine with it, but that video was fantastic, when the second pillow hits him in the face it was very funny. He does have some bad habits ‘Sinck’, but the thing is with him, he more than makes up for any of his shortcomings, like the fact that he snores, by just being hilarious for the rest of the time, I would happily room with him.
Q. I have heard it on the record from a couple of the players now that Kyle is the MVP when it comes to the best tourist so far, would you agree?
A. Yeah I think so, he has just fully bought into it. He is a massive rugby fan anyway, an absolute statistician – I know for a fact that he has watched every Living with the Lions DVD ever, so he can do all the speeches. There is a famous scene in 2009 when Andrew Sheridan and Phil Vickery are butting heads in the changing room before a game and Vickery is shouting: ‘Are you listening to me!? Are you listening to me?!’ Well ‘Sinck’ has been telling me that he is going to do that to me if we play together so there is a chance that it might be this Saturday – I hope not! He is just fantastic value.
Q. Can you give us a bit of an idea of who is on what committee behind the scenes, I know the fans love that sort of thing?
A. James Haskell and Liam Williams are on the music committee, I am actually on the Tour guide committee with Coley (Dan Cole), Hask, again! and Tips (Justin Tipuric). Everywhere we go we have to stand up on the bus and give a few facts about the place that we are visiting. So I had to do Dunedin – so if you are interested I can drop a bit of knowledge your way – it’s known as the Edinburgh of the South and is also home to the world’s rarest penguin – the blue penguin so there you are.
Q. What about the fines committee then?
A. There are a few people on that, but Sean O’Brien is the one you want to look out for. He is always walking around with his notepad just ticking stuff off and trying to catch you out. We all know who is on the fines committee so you have to make sure you stay whiter than white when they are around. There is a dice roll but the punishments are different to 2013, there won’t be anyone calling up their DoR like Simon Zebo had to do then, but some of them are still very bad. One of the punishments is that you have to do a two-minute performance in front of all the lads but I think the worst one is probably that you have to wear your suit, what we call your ‘No 1s’, for a whole week. If you are seen out of your room then you have to be in your suit which is brutal – that would be such a bad one to get when we have the first fines meeting. There are also ones like if you roll a 1 then you get a free pass, if you roll a 2 then you get to nominate someone else to roll.
Q. Warren Gatland just mentioned in his press conference today that Mako is under suspicion for tying all the backs shoelaces together after training, will there be a punishment for that?
A. Shoelace-gate, or shoe-gate, it was 100 percent Mako! Mako tried to say that there were other people involved as well, but I have to say he was the only one I saw doing it. The backs aren’t speaking to him, they were just deadpan walking past him after training and I am sure they are going to get him back. Mako is a very under-the-radar prankster, but he is always doing something so as his roommate you have got to stay very wary of what he is up to. But to be fair, he is a very big man so it’s quite hard for him to sneak around! Sean O’Brien always seems to be up to something as well, you never know what is around the corner.
Q. As you are the squad Tour guide, I suppose it makes sense to ask what have been your stand-out sites to visit in New Zealand so far?
A. The Sky Tower in Auckland was pretty cool, we went up there and the views over the city were amazing. I did see some people jumping off the top, but I was absolutely not tempted to do it – I am not good with heights and I can already tell you that I will not be doing a bungee in Queenstown either. No chance. But in general, towards the end of the Tour I think we will get a bit more time to do a bit more sight-seeing. At the moment we are only in places for three days at a time, you are training, playing a game, there isn’t a lot of time so there is not much of a chance to be a proper tourist.
Q. What about the Kiwi people then, have you had much interaction with them?
A. There has been a bit of stick from the locals but they have all been very hospitable as well. Every single one of them seems to do exactly the same thing – they wish us all the best, and then with their next breath they tell us that they also hope we lose! I don’t know whether they have been told to say it, but literally every single person we have met says that. But they have all been very nice and they are all very excited about the Tour and the Test series in particular. We had one elder Maori lady at the game on Tuesday night against the Highlanders who was giving us a bit of banter in the crowd. She was sitting in front of us and kept turning around to tell us about the scrum laws – that was a first for me. But she actually knew what she was talking about – so fair play to her!
Q. Have you got family coming out or maybe already out here in New Zealand to support you?
A. My mum and dad actually arrived today (Thursday) which is great and my girlfriend is coming out just before the first Test, so next Thursday. It has been difficult to get in contact with people back home, but this is part of it and we are used to touring by now, I have done a few. Probably not one as long as this though, so it is nice that they are coming out and I can’t wait to see them.
Q. How special will it be to have your family in the crowd?
A. It is going to be amazing, one of the best things for me was seeing the reaction of my family to me actually getting in the squad. I saw my dad the day before the announcement and he was a mess, I mean a real mess, much worse than me and I actually had to tell him to calm down! Thank goodness he isn’t on social media, I made sure that wasn’t happening! But then it was announced and they rang me in floods of tears. I am pretty sure that the same day the squad was announced they booked their flights to New Zealand. It is great for them to be here and to be involved on Saturday, it means I am guaranteed to play in a game that they will be here to watch. This is also the first time that I have actually let them buy the jersey, they always wanted to buy Sarries and England and I have always been very against it but this time, I have had to relent and let them so they are fully stashed up with Lions gear and so that will make for a nice photo after the game.
Yesterday was crazy!! Huge honour to be selected on the @lionsofficial tour, I can’t wait. Thanks for all the kind messages 👍🏻
— Jamie George (@J_George2) April 20, 2017
Q. Your father Ian played for Northampton, London Welsh and the Barbarians, so is he quick to offer advice?
A. My father is very knowledgeable about the game but he was a scrum half so it’s difficult for him to say much about what goes on in the front row. Both my mum and dad are very supportive and would never miss a game but before when I was younger they used to ask me loads of questions and suggest stuff but now they know to just leave me to it and after the game it is just nice for them to be there. But I can’t say the same for my older brothers, I have twin brothers Gareth and Jonathan and the older of the two Gareth is the ‘nause’. He thinks he is the greatest rugby coach of all time so he is always telling me that I should have done this, or I should have done that. He was a fly half when he played the game and now for some reason he thinks is an expert hooker and a lineout connoisseur!
Q. And just finally, to chat a little bit of rugby, this is your second start and after that Crusaders win, one more big performance against Maori All Blacks and you could maybe put one arm in the Test jersey?
A. This is a big game, that Crusaders performance was spot on. On a personal level I was really happy with how I played and the team performed really well, there was a great energy and buzz around the team and I think we need to re-create that again. I actually thought we played really well on Tuesday as well but we were a bit unfortunate and discipline let us down. We have had a really good review and I think it is going to be a huge game on Saturday.
Q. And that Maori squad is quite something isn’t it?
A. Yeah, they have some really talented players, you look at the squad and think ‘I am sure he would get into a lot of other international teams.’ They are brilliant but I think when I first got announced on the Tour I looked at the schedule and realised we were playing ten games, and all ten of them were going to be tough. Whether it is the Crusaders, or the Maori, or the Hurricanes or New Zealand, you are in for a tough game that will test you physically and mentally. Yes, the Maori have got a fantastic side, but so do we and that is something for us to get very excited about.
Q. What have you made of the Maori traditions that you have encountered?
A. The trip to Waitangi for our welcome was just amazing, and then I have also visited a couple of schools who did their own individual hakas for us. It is all part of the experience and I am loving it. I grew up watching rugby and the haka was iconic, and to see so many different ones and how much their culture means to them is incredible. It is great to see, the haka certainly fired me up in the Crusaders game. I had never faced one before in senior rugby and it was proper hairs on the back of the neck stuff.