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Jamie George believes a confrontation with South Africa offers the perfect opportunity for England’s pack to rediscover their edge after being bullied by New Zealand.
George has revealed that the red rose are “hurting” after being outmuscled in a 25-25 draw, particularly during a passive first half in which the All Blacks established a 19-point lead.
South Africa complete the Autumn Nations Series at Twickenham on Saturday and George views the clash with the world champions as the ideal stage for forwards looking to snarl once again.
“That’s been the talk all week,” George said. “It’s the perfect test for us as a front five off the back of a poor performance against New Zealand.
“The way we scrummaged and mauled is not the England standard and we’re fully aware of that.
“Players have been really accountable to that and what better than testing yourself against one of the best packs in the world?
“We’ve got a lot of respect for them but we’re hurting from our performance at the weekend and we want to make sure we get things right.”
England started the week with a period of soul-searching as they sought an explanation for the dismal first half that was followed by stunning fightback, sparing head coach Eddie Jones a more vigorous inquest into what went wrong.
Rather than Jones or his coaching lieutenants orchestrate the response against South Africa, George revealed the players have taken control.
“A lot of things this week have been more player-led,” the Saracens and Lions hooker said. “Kyle Sinckler said he wants to do more scrum set-ups and when you hear your tighthead talking about that, that gives you a huge amount of confidence.
“It’s little things like that. Also the way Maro Itoje has taken on the line-out and the maul is impressive.
“It’s impressive of the coaches to allow them to grow into those roles as well because, off the back of a pretty mediocre performance, coaches sometimes try and take over and put all their input on it.
“But they have given the players confidence and said, ‘Go and fix the problem’ and they have fed in as and when needed.”
George insists England remain comfortable with their decision to kick the ball dead in overtime rather than launch one last do-or-die assault in search of an improbable win.
They have been criticised for showing a lack of ambition, but George said: “I was probably more, ‘Kick it out’.
“I know there is a lot of criticism around it and I can understand that. On the field at the time, where we had come back from was incredible.
“We did have a length-of-the-field try at one stage but that doesn’t happen that often against the All Blacks. When you do it once, they smarten up.
“It’s always dangerous to play in your own half. We would have been confident we could break them down but the risk was probably too high at that point so I think it was the right call.”