Even a player as experienced as Jamie George still has to do his homework.
The 2017 British & Irish Lions tourist was a late arrival to the pre-Tour training camp along with his Saracens teammates after they cemented the club’s return to the Premiership.
George played and scored in both legs of the Championship play-off final success against Ealing Trailfinders before joining Warren Gatland’s men in Jersey for the second week.
Gallery: First training session in South Africa
And despite having three Lions Test caps under his belt, as well as 59 England caps, the 30-year-old admitted he has had to put the hours in to get used to the 2021 Tour playbook.
“It is challenging I have to say but that is your main focus when you come into camp, is getting to know people and also familiarising yourself with the plays and stuff like that,” he said.
“It was a bit tough last week getting my head around things, just working with different coaches, the transition in 2017 was perhaps a bit easier with [Steve] Borthwick coming in.
“Having such a close relationship with him, a lot of the plays or lineout calls we used then were pretty similar to the ones we used at England at the time whereas it’s different here now.
“I’m just getting up to speed really and there’s a lot of walkthroughs and conversations around a laptop happening at the minute, just as we’re trying to do now with the new boys coming in.
“The emphasis isn’t just on the new people coming in to learn the plays, the emphasis is on the players that are already there to make sure they’re up to speed as well.”
He added: “It’s just about getting my head around the different plays, like the attacking shape. The way it works here is slightly different to the ones I’ve been used to before
“I’m just trying to adapt. I suppose the difficulty is you can’t be on the field for hours and hours at a time. So there’s a lot more studying, the training time isn’t as high as other teams.”
Murray vows to make the most of Lions captaincy
George was at the heart of the pack that helped the tourists come from 1-0 down to draw the 2017 series against New Zealand, starting all three of the Tests in New Zealand.
The England forward was joined in the front row four years ago by Ireland tighthead Tadhg Furlong, who George built up a strong relationship with during the Tour.
So it came as no surprise to George that, when he arrived in Jersey, Furlong was one of the first players to greet him – and thrust a laptop in his face to get him up to speed.
“He’s a great personality, a ridiculous personality,” he said. “He’s a great guy, very funny and he takes his work very seriously. That struck me straight away – I had a great relationship with him.
“We picked up where we left off as soon as I walked through the door in Jersey. He had a laptop in my face looking at scrum set-ups, engages and all that stuff, what he needs from me.
“That’s perfect for me and it’s great to have that relationship with him and the role of a hooker in a scrum is to try and get the best in the people either side of you.
“He’s a great character and one of the best tightheads in the world. I think we’re blessed in this team, you look at [Andrew] Porter going out and you bring in someone with the calibre of Sinckler.
“The scrum sessions so far have been pretty tasty, I have to say, and the competition for places is great and Tadhg is really putting his hand up – he had a great game against Japan.”
Pundits have their say on who stood out for the Lions
Furlong was not the only player George struck up a bond with in 2017, with the England man also developing a bond with new 2021 Tour captain Conor Murray in New Zealand.
Murray was selected as Alun Wyn Jones’ replacement as skipper after the Wales legend and three-time tourist dislocated his shoulder in the Lions’ 28-10 win over Japan.
South Africa will be Murray’s third consecutive Tour with the Lions and having been one of the first people to learn the news, George believes the scrum-half will thrive in the role.
“I got really close to him [in 2017] and character-wise I can’t speak highly enough of him. Just an unbelievably popular member of the group,” said the prominent Lions social committee member.
“He’s someone that always has an arm around you, checking in on you and I think that’s a great sign of a good leader – I know he was taken aback when he first got asked.
“I think I was one of the first people that he told after Gats asked him and he had a bit of a shock on his face but at the same time you could see the sense of excitement.
“For me I’m hugely excited for him, I think he deserves it and he’s on his third Tour, hugely experienced, widely respected by all the players and certainly one who will lead from the front.
“I’m really excited for him and the great thing is, especially on Tours like this, he will do his best to use the people around him on a leadership front as well – that will be the focus for him.
“I’m just really happy for him and think he’ll do a good job. It’s hard to say yet [what sort of captain he’ll be], I imagine he won’t be as vocal as previous captains I’ve worked with.
“But even without the captaincy on the last Tour and the first week in Jersey, he comes up with moments of gold – not just from a technical point of view, but a mindset point of view.
“He’s the sort of person that when he talks, people listen and that’s obviously a great trait of a captain and the biggest thing for him is he’ll have the full backing of the whole team.”