Jamie George insists he is ready for the pressure that accompanies the England captaincy despite seeing the toll it took on his close friend Owen Farrell.
George will lead England into the Guinness Six Nations in what he describes as the “greatest achievement of my life”, starting against Italy in Rome on February 3.
When first offered the role by Steve Borthwick earlier this month, the 33-year-old Lions hooker was told to take a weekend to make his decision in a nod to recent events that have seen Farrell take a break from Test rugby that could yet be permanent.
It was the fierce online scrutiny of Farrell leading into the World Cup and his booing by fans in France that compelled him to rule himself out of the Six Nations in order to prioritise his and his family’s mental well-being.
Borthwick turned to one of England’s most influential figures to take over and having considered all aspects of the captaincy, George knew he only had one choice.
“When you’re given the weekend to go and think about things, the obvious thing to do is to go and look at both sides of the coin,” George said.
“And for me, there are so many positives that come with this. This is the greatest achievement of my life. Stepping out on the field in Rome is going to be one of the best moments that I will ever experience.
“And I felt like it was a decision that if I had turned down for other reasons I would have absolutely regretted because I’m at a good stage of my career to step up and take this on.
“I have a good understanding of what might be out there to come, but at the same time I’m also hopeful that we’ve learned a lot of lessons from the Owen situation.
“I’m not hiding away from the fact there is additional pressure and responsibility.
“I personally think that pressure is a privilege.
“I spoke to Owen about it. He was probably one of the first people I told when Steve asked me. That was the natural thing to do because Owen and I are very, very close.
“The only thing he said to me was that if I needed anything, he is the first person I should call and that he would always be there to have a conversation. That is invaluable to me.”
“We sort of tip-toed our way around the captaincy conversation, but we also laid the foundations for it,” George said.
“We spoke a bit about what it might look like and then Steve was amazing and said ‘take the weekend to have a think about it because it can have a big impact on you, as we’ve seen’.
“It was a bit like a proposal! At the time I wanted to snap his hand off and say yes, but it was good to be able to speak to my family over the weekend and get their thoughts on it all. I phoned him first thing on the Monday to accept.”