England 2015 summons spirit of St George
On St George's Day, two of England's rugby Georges talk patriotism, pride and Rugby World Cup 2015.
Leicester team-mates George Ford and George Chuter initially seem like opposites on the England rugby spectrum. Hooker Chuter is 35 and nearing the end of a career that has seen him win 24 England caps, appearing in the Rugby World Cup 2007 Final along the way.
Fly half Ford turned 19 last month and is yet to win a full England cap, although being named the youngest ever IRB Junior Player of the Year in 2011 marks him as a player England fans should look for in the future. But both share an enormous pride in pulling on the shirt of their country.
How would you grade England’s chances for Rugby World Cup 2015?
George Chuter (GC): Home advantage is quite important, especially when other teams will come from the other side of the world. You only have to look at the Premiership – more games are won at home than away. We’re trying to build a team for that World Cup now and it’s looking OK. A lot of young guys have played four or five Test matches and that’s invaluable. It’s important to experience Test rugby before you go to a World Cup.
George Ford (GF): I think the chances for England are massive when you see the talent coming through in the last Six Nations and the lads that have been playing Under 20s and in the Premiership. From my point of view I’d obviously love to be involved but I’m not looking that far ahead at the minute. I’m just concentrating on Leicester and trying to get into that team.
What young England players should we be looking out for in 2015?
GC: (Manu) Tuilagi. He’s already made a splash at Test level and he’s only 20. Chris Robshaw is not an old man. He’ll be in his late 20s by then and potentially have 50 caps as captain. And even someone like Toby Flood. You can’t count Toby out. I’m a little bit biased as he’s my team-mate but he’ll be 30-ish by the next World Cup and that’s a lot of experience. He’s already on 46 caps. You look at the spine of the team – they’re all young players who you’d hope will be peaking.
Winning the IRB Junior Player of the Year Award – was that expected?
GF: It was a complete shock to be honest. I thought with New Zealand winning the Junior World Championship (Ford’s England team lost 33-22 in the final) that one of the Kiwis would win it. That wouldn’t have been unfair as they were brilliant. But it was a massive honour and a privilege to play with the Under 20 lads. It was a 26-man effort at the Junior World Championship and even though it was an individual award, I don’t see it like that.
How old were you when you first pulled on an England shirt?
GC: I won my first cap when I had just turned 30 in 2006. I didn’t play a lot of age grade rugby for England – I got a cap at 19 for the Colts. I went on the tour in ’98 and even then, playing midweek games against sides in New Zealand, it was great. You work hard, do all your fitness, run up cold hills in the mornings, but you run out with a rose on your chest and it makes it all worthwhile.
GF: I was 15 years old when I wore the shirt for the first time. I was playing for the Under 16s out in France against Wales. It was a real special feeling to put on an England shirt. Unfortunately on the day we came out on the wrong side of the result, which was hard to take because the lads were so excited and just wanted to win for the country.
How did it feel to play in the Rugby World Cup 2007 Final?
GC: It’s one of the highlights of my life, if I’m honest. But at the time it’s quite surreal and just another game. You prepare in the week the same as if it were a pre-season friendly for your club. You just try and take your mind off the fact that it’s potentially the biggest game you’ll ever play in. But once the whistle goes you get on with your job trying to help your team win. But it’s something I’ll never forget.
A lot of people feel you and Owen Farrell are going to be battling for the No.10 England shirt for years. Do you two joke about that?
GF: [Laughs] I’ve known Owen for ages. We’re good mates. But that’s never come up. He’s played 12 when we’ve been in the same team and that’s worked very well. We both play like 10s. We can both distribute and kick the ball. He’s done outstandingly well and you can see from this Six Nations that he’s got the temperament to be world class. He’s going to be hard to move from out of that position.
Does St George’s Day resonate with you on a personal level?
GC: I’m fiercely patriotic. It’s not a celebration as such. You don’t go out and party, but I do think it’s significant for an Englishman. And being called George it gives me an excuse to walk around all day with my chest out [laughs].
GF: Yeah, it does. It’s one of those days that sticks in your memory and when it comes you feel pretty good about it.
What does England have to offer for people who come to the country in 2015?
GC: There’s so much history in this country. There’s Roman history, go up to York and there’s the Viking history. In Leicestershire there’s the English Civil War and Bosworth Field. You go anywhere from the south-west to the north, there’s beautiful countryside. The weather’s not great [laughs] but it’s charming in many ways.
GF: It’s a great country with loads to do, especially around places like London, Manchester and Birmingham. There’s a lot of good people out there.
Are there any particular attractions you’d recommend people visit?
GC: I’d say London because of the history and the modern attractions – the London Eye, Tate Modern. The culture.
GF: Wembley Stadium is massively impressive and then you’ve got things in London like the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben.
Name your top three Georges in world rugby?
GC: George Ford [laughs]. I’m a big fan of George Gregan and George Smith too.
GF: I’ve got two really good team-mates at Leicester in George Skivington and George Chuter. The other one would be George North. What he’s done for Wales is awesome.
To mark St George's Day, we're looking for fans to name their World George XV. The only criteria is they must have George in their name! Visit the RWC 2015 Facebook page to post your selections.
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