England hooker Jamie George has described recent days in the Premiership as the “darkest week in rugby history” after Wasps joined Worcester Warriors in administration.
The Saracens front rower is out of England’s Autumn Nations Series with metatarsal damage but says watching domestic rugby’s financial crisis worsen is concerning.
Wasps plunged into administration on Monday as the future of the 155-year-old club descended in doubt just weeks after Worcester suffered a similar fate.
“The whole Worcester-Wasps situation is absolutely horrendous and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone,” George said.
“We [Saracens] had a period where our futures were uncertain, too. Obviously it’s a different situation and we were wrong in what we did [salary cap scandal] but at times like these you realise that the people you see on TV are real people and not just players that pop up on the TV screen. I count myself very lucky whilst also having a huge amount of sympathy for people who are at Wasps and Worcester.”
One of George’s best friends, Joe Launchbury, is among the 167 players and staff who have been made redundant at Wasps following their entry into administration.
“I saw Joe Launchbury on Sunday, and he knew the meeting was coming on Monday,” George added. “He didn’t know what that would look like and I think the news was worse than he was expecting but what do I do now? I just need to be a friend to Joe.
“I sent him a message yesterday saying, ‘Listen, I’m sorry it wasn’t what you wanted it to be. I’m here if you need me.’.
“I’m gutted for him and I want him to be OK and at the minute if he’s completely honest he’ll put a brave face on but he’s probably not.
Hope for George
“Now, Joe Launchbury doesn’t have a job. Dan Robson doesn’t have a job – and 167 other people at Wasps don’t have jobs. As players, we need to recognise that and think, ‘What can we do?’.
“Maybe it took something like this to create some form of change. It’s horrific that it had to be this way, but if we can channel this into English rugby becoming a lot more secure and the club game is in a good spot off the back of it that’s probably the only thing we can hope for.”
England head coach Eddie Jones named a 36-man squad ahead of his side’s November internationals – where they play Argentina, Japan, New Zealand and South Africa – on Monday.
George’s exclusion was down to his foot injury but insists watching as a fan will be no easier given his love for the sport and extended period on the sidelines.
“Short-term, it’s about getting back fit and utilising these 10 weeks that you don’t usually get – I almost get an extended pre-season now,” said George, speaking at an event introducing the Sage Smart Ball, which is set to be part of international rugby from this autumn.
“Getting myself in the middle of the field and trying to influence the game more is something that both Mark [McCall, Saracens director of rugby] and Eddie want – and I want – so that’s certainly something I’ve been working on.
“I’m a terrible watcher because I’m a massive fan, I’ve been an England fan all my life. I’ll be at the games and hoping for the best, but I am a nervous watcher just like I am with Aston Villa or the England cricket team.”
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