JAMIE GEORGE has warned Scotland they face a very different England side to a year ago when the 2019 Guinness Six Nations concludes at Twickenham on Saturday.
Eddie Jones’s men were horribly exposed at the breakdown as they collapsed to a 25-13 defeat at Murrayfield in the old rivals’ last meeting to begin a harrowing sequence of five successive Test losses.
Jones was fighting for his future heading into the autumn but after sweeping aside Italy 57-14 at Twickenham on Saturday, resurgent England now enter the final weekend with Ireland’s Championship crown in their sights.
The issues at the breakdown have long since been fixed and George insists the tired and rudderless team that recorded a worst finish in the competition since 1987, fifth place, is a distant memory.
“The difference is night and day. We’re in a much better place now and a lot of that is to do with the atmosphere in the team,” the Lions and Saracens hooker said.
“We lost to Wales a couple of weeks ago, but how quickly we’ve bounced back is incredible really. The lesson we’ve learned from last year is to try and get better each day rather than let the negativity get on top of us.
“You can see the place we’re in now compared to then. When you’re losing the pressure comes on.
“When you lose a few games on the bounce, you start to look at yourselves a bit more.
“It’s difficult to enjoy yourself on the training pitch because of the pressure and in turn you struggled to express yourself in the game.
“It’s always a huge game against Scotland. We can’t wait to keep the momentum going.
“It’s critical to get the win and we’ll need to produce a whole 80-minute performance. We know how important Saturday is so we’ll try to put everything on to the field.”
Italy were routed with predictable ease as Manu Tuilagi and Brad Shields crossed twice each in an eight-try stroll that set a new record of 31 minutes for the fastest bonus point secured.
Now positioned on 21 successive Six Nations defeats, Azzurri credibility is at an all-time low while Georgia press hard for the introduction of a play-off that would offer a place among Europe’s elite.
At the opposite end of the table, England must dispatch Scotland and hope Ireland prevent Wales from completing the Grand Slam at the Principality Stadium.
“It’s a case of job done really. We left a little bit out there as well, which is a good thing going into Scotland because we know how big that will be,” George added.
“The focus for us was to put some pressure on Wales and I thought we did that against Italy.”
Tuilagi showed his power for his two tries by swatting aside feeble Italian tackles but he shared the spotlight with Joe Cokanasiga, the marauding Fijian-born wing who was winning his fourth cap.
“The bloke’s a freak isn’t he? He was amazing. We’re the lucky ones because we get to see it day in, day out in training,” George said. “He’s been fantastic. He’s a young talent who is only going to get better and that’s a scary thought.”
Jones has called for Six Nations organisers to consider introducing relegation.
The Azzurri’s eight-try rout has renewed scrutiny of their place among Europe’s elite, as pressure grows for a play-off from the second tier to be established.
Georgia, who trained with England in the second fallow week, are arguing a strong case for Six Nations inclusion.
“I think they should always consider rewarding merit, it doesn’t matter what competition you’re in,” Jones said.
“The organisers talk about the Six Nations being the best rugby competition in the world and it probably is close to it, but to improve it you’ve got to find a way of making sure you’ve got the six best teams in Europe always playing in it.
“If that involves relegation then it’s something that should be looked at very closely.”
Georgia spent two days at England’s camp in Oxford, with fights breaking out during the live scrummaging sessions.
Jones believes the combination of facing the rugged Eastern Europeans and a series of social events helped the squad bounce back after their defeat to Wales in Cardiff.
“We had a couple of hard training runs against Georgia, a few nights on the beer. Just relaxing, enjoying each other’s company,” Jones said.