The Saracens front-rower talks laughs, lockdown and latte art

Downtime with… England hooker Jamie George

How have you found lockdown?

I’m quite lucky because I have a home gym set-up to keep me ticking over and we also have some outside space, so I’ve spent a lot of time in the garden.

Rarely do you get an opportunity to completely switch off rugby-wise. Even in the off-season, after about a week you’re thinking about pre-season and the season ahead, so it’s been good to sit back and reflect on what’s just been.

How have you been training?

I’ve got weights and a Wattbike at home, and it’s been nice training on my own schedule. I’ve done a few longer Wattbike sessions using Zwift to ride with others (virtually).

We also have a Philosophy Club at Saracens. We have a topic, say the art of listening, and David Jones – personal development manager – presents on what philosophers’ theories would be so there’s an educational element. Then it opens up into a forum on whether you’re a good listener. We’ve been running that for years and now do it over Zoom.

What about staying entertained?

I’ve run a few quizzes with a Saracens group of six couples on a Friday night over Zoom, which is good fun. I was the initial quizmaster but now whoever loses has to run the next quiz.

Lots of rugby questions?

No. It’s a pub quiz-type vibe. I did ask what significant sporting event took place on 22 November 2003. No one got it right – Owen (Farrell) was playing and I thought, ‘You should know this’!

What else have you been up to?

My partner, Katie, is working from home so Monday to Friday, nine ’til five, I’m trying to occupy myself. I’m finding jobs to do around the house, things I’ve put off. We also have a dog, Otto, so it’s been great to take him out.

Will it be strange when rugby returns?

It’ll take some getting used to again but I’m excited to get back to it. The reflection has allowed us to realise how great what we do is. I miss the boys and the competitive element.

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What would you like to achieve outside of rugby?

I’d like to further the physio business I’ve set up, Carter & George, to replicate what we’ve done so that three or four more are open by the time I’ve retired. That would almost allow me to phase out of rugby into my own business. Working for yourself is every retired rugby player’s dream.

If you could be any of your team-mates, who would it be?

For a day? There are a few I’d want to know what goes through their mind. Richard Barrington is one. He is just constantly on the move and is the most sociable bloke ever.

What’s the best practical joke you’ve witnessed?

I’m not naming names but once someone’s car was completely covered in yellow Post-it stickers. He was raging – his car is his prized possession.

What annoys you?

I hate the sound of cutlery rubbing together or if someone bites a fork or a spoon. That sound sends shivers down my spine.

Who’d you like to be stuck in a lift with?

A lot of people would say Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods, but I don’t think you need to go for a big personality.

You want someone who is a bit more relatable. Actually, having said that I’m going to go for someone completely unrelatable – Prince Harry – because then you’d get out of that lift quickly.

Prince Harry

Thanks for the lift! Prince Harry and Meghan Markle (Getty Images)

If your house was on fire, what would you save? Katie and Otto are safe.

The coffee machine. With England, the coffee machine in the team room is a social gathering spot. Manu Tuilagi is the main barista – he can do swans and stuff on the top. Elliot Daly isn’t far off. I’m progressing. I gave a latte art lesson on a video call with Tim Streather, who used to play for us, the other day.

What’s your guilty pleasure?

Chocolate. It’s usually white but I’ve started on the 70% stuff flavoured with orange or sea salt. Reduce the calories in lockdown!

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

Invisibility. Then you could creep into meetings you’re not allowed into. When a director of rugby takes a player into a room, everyone wants to know what is going on.

How’d you like to be remembered?

As someone who didn’t change regardless of success. Or failure.

This article originally appeared in the June 2020 edition of Rugby World magazine.

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