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Saracens' Jamie George frustrated at lack of playing time but privileged to learn under Schalk Brits and John Smit
Saracens' promising hooker Jamie George admits he is frustrated by his lack of first team action this season but still believes he has a better deal at Saracens than any young player in the Premiership.
The 22-year-old has made only nine appearances in the league this campaign and just one from the start which came in a disappointing defeat to Exeter Chiefs back in September.
But George insists the disappointment of not being picked for the first team is made easier by something else: training with world-class hooking duo Schalk Brits and John Smit.
George said: "It has been frustrating not playing as much as I'd like but at the same time I've still been involved in quite a few matchday squads.
"I've got to stay patient, hopefully im going to get a lot more opportunities next season but for me the thing that's most desirable is the fact I'm learning off two of the best hookers in the world.
"I don't think anyone else in the Premiership, any young player, has that opportunity like I do."
Smit and Brits have racked up 116 caps for South Africa between them and George says he cherishes the chance to learn from players of such a high calibre.
"I'm like a sponge," the Saracens academy graduate said.
"I'm just trying to learn as much as I can off them especially because their playing styles are fairly different so I'm just trying to pick pieces off both of them.
"They're both absolutely unbelievable with me, they go out of their way to try and help me all the time.
"John has helped me hugely with my scrummaging - I have to scrumage against them every week in training and you have to learn fast to cope at that level.
"But at the same time they talk to me about a lot of things - the special thing about Schalk and John is they're such nice, humble guys and they just want to help me."
As a player who made his debut for the Men in Black more than three years ago, George may well have hoped to be a more prominent figure in the Saracens first team by now.
He has represented England at Under-16, Under-18 and Under-20 level and has been tipped for a big future in the game. That expectation, George admits, makes it even harder to be sitting on the sidelines.
"It is difficult, every young player wants to be playing every week," he said.
"It does get frustrating, there are times when I'm desperate to be playing - I'm not saying that by being patient I'm happy not playing - obviously I'd prefer to be in the middle every game."
In the past month former Sarries winger Noah Cato and Adam Powell have both joined Newcastle Falcons in search of more regular playing time but George insists at the moment he has no thoughts of moving elsewhere.
"I'll definitely be at Saracens next season," he said.
"The club have told me next season I'm going to get a lot more game time and that I'm going to be really involved which is exactly what I want.
"In terms of the rest of this season I'm just hoping to get as many games as I can and develop as much as I can.
"Ive got to take every game as it comes, focus on my strength and conditioning if I'm not playing and then if I do get an opportunity I need to take it."
Most of George's opportunities this campaign have come in the LV= Cup where he has started every one of Sarries' matches.
The Men in Black's run in the competition though came to an end at the Salford City Stadium on Sunday as they lost 21-15 to Sale Sharks in the semi-final.
George said: "It was hugely disappointing but I think on the day we didn't play the sort of rugby we would have hoped to play and we paid for that.
"Our discipline wasn't good enough and we let ourselves down at the breakdown as well where we weren't as clinical as we could have been."
Saracens started with six players under the age of 23 and despite the defeat, George believes the club's policy of using the competition to blood through the youngsters is a good one.
George said: "I'm 100 per cent behind that, I think we've seen huge benefits from backing the younger guys.
"If the younger guys don't get an opportunity how are you ever going to progress?
"(Director of rugby) Mark McCall gave us a great opportunity and we got to the semi-finals which is an achievement in itself but we wanted to win the competition."
Saracens don't have a match this weekend and some of the players have been given the week off including George, who is putting his feet up in Cape Town, South Africa.
He added: "The boys take a bit of a battering during the season so it's going to be great for me to get away.
"There's a huge amount left to play for - we're in a quarter-final of the Heineken Cup, we're top of the Premiership - we're coming to the business of the season.
"It's a really exciting time for the club and this is where we need to just push on and keep working hard."