Homegrown Saracens stars like Jamie George have reaped the rewards of playing the waiting game

Bob Baker
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ASM Clermont Auvergne v Saracens - European Rugby Champions Cup Final
George (centre) helped Sarries retain their European crown (Source: Getty)

On a thick-headed 2009 morning after the night before in a dated and soulless Tokyo hotel, Jamie George mentioned with disappointment that Saracens had just signed Schalk Brits, arguably the most electric hooker that South Africa has ever produced.

The signing was in addition to Springbok captain John Smit who was the incumbent Sarries No2.

At the time George was only 18 and had just finished the Junior World Cup in Japan as a runner-up, having lost out to a classy New Zealand side whose back-line, including Aaron Cruden and Zac Guildford, proved a bridge too far.

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The Old Haileyburian returned to his club to join up with academy peers Jackson Wray, Will Fraser, George Kruis and Owen Farrell for the fun of the pre-season fair.

At the time the youngsters sat behind Jacques Burger, Ernst Joubert, Steve Borthwick and Charlie Hodgson respectively.

Questions were asked of a club that was aggressively recruiting international names, but to Saracens’ great credit it has never been of detriment to their home-reared livestock.

In fact, the old heads meant these yearlings were not sent to the slaughter before their prime, but instead were introduced intelligently.

Saturday’s Champions Cup final saw Saracens crowned kings of Europe for the second year running, overcoming Clermont 28-17 with four of the five aforementioned Sarries in the starting line-up.

George may have missed out on silverware eight years ago in Japan, but with another European medal around his neck and a British and Irish Lions tour to look forward to next month, the Brits-Smit tutorials must have had some value.

Edinburgh shines once again

In a year when Scottish rugby was reborn, it was fitting that the ‎city of Edinburgh hosted the deciders of the European tournaments.

The capital’s dark alleys, characterised by stories of gravediggery and sin, are as welcoming and warm as the stone constructions are not.

Fans bustled in the courtyards, international friendships were born in the bars of the Grassmarket and characterful local publicans warmly served the heaving crowds.

Irrespective of myth and fable, the rugby spirit is as strong as ever north of the border.

Murrayfield staged an enthralling final, and although the stands were not packed to the rafters, the city again exhibits the passion and spirit that has risen once more in Scottish rugby.

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