Sport

Saturday 19 August 2017

Jamie George marvels at travelling Lions support

Jamie George, centre, has grown into the Lions series
Jamie George, centre, has grown into the Lions series

Jamie George's family were in tears at the British and Irish Lions' stunning support in Saturday's second Test win over New Zealand.

The Saracens hooker has had to bid an emotional farewell to his parents, who have returned to England for work and will miss Saturday's Test series decider with the All Blacks in Auckland.

George admitted he's "never seen anything like it" in summing up the Lions throng that turned Wellington's Westpac Stadium into a home match for the tourists, who edged to victory 24-21.

And now the 26-year-old expects the Lions' huge travelling support to take over Eden Park this weekend as the tourists bid to record only their second-ever series win in New Zealand.

"The way the Lions fans were on Saturday, that's something I'll never forget for the rest of my life," said George.

"I had a lot of family in the stadium and they were all in floods of tears before the game, just based on the atmosphere. So it made the whole occasion just so much more special.

"I've never seen anything like it and I can fully imagine it's going to be very similar and maybe bigger this week.

"The build-up in and around, just walking around, there's a huge amount of excitement from the fans, and that's definitely reflected on us as well.

"My parents have to go home. They are gutted. They were trying to change their flights but they can't make it.

"When they were saying goodbye they got a bit tearful again. My parents have to get back for work, so unfortunately they won't be here. But they'll be here in spirit.

"My girlfriend and her family are here though, and my uncle and my cousin are in a camper van. So they're having a great time."

George's Saracens team-mate Maro Itoje hit cult status in Saturday's second Test win when the Lions squared the series one-all.

The Lions fans drowned out the All Blacks faithful with endless renditions of the Itoje chant that is set to the tune of the White Stripes' Seven Nation Army.

And George admitted he has been stunned to watch a light-hearted heralding of a close friend and team-mate that started in the Saracens dressing room now go global.

"The chant's pretty good!" said George. "It's a bit surreal that really, to be honest. I'm very happy for Maro, he loves it.

"Well, I actually don't think he does like it to be honest, but we get stuck into him!"

George has won 17 caps for England but is yet to start a Test for his country. The bullish front-rower has forced his way to the front of the Lions' queue however, and admitted he has had to stretch himself to get there.

"As soon as I got on the plane the messages from Gats (Warren Gatland) were that he was going to pick the best players to beat the All Blacks," said George. "So I knew I had an opportunity to do that.

"The one thing I needed to do was to be confident enough to show my leadership, especially in and around scrum time, a nd I've sort of built into that the more the tour's gone on. I feel really comfortable doing that now.

"It's amazing how much influence you can have on other people in your actions and your words.

"The way Johnny (Sexton), Owen (Farrell), Alun Wyn (Jones), Maro, the way they all were on Saturday you can take huge inspiration from that.

"I've learned a huge amount from those guys in terms of leadership in stressful situations."

The Lions' only series win came back in 1971. When asked if he understands the 2017 squad's names will live forever with victory on Saturday, George replied: "Immortality!

"Well, we're fully aware of what's at stake. But we can't get carried away with the emotional side of the game.

"We've got to make sure physically we're on it, mentally we're on it, that we know our stuff and we can go into our game with clear heads and really attack it.

"Because sometimes you can get overawed by the whole occasion and think about making history and all that. But we can't think about that, we'll just go play by play, minute by minute."

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