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Saracens hooker Jamie George is ready for a physical battle when his side take on Exeter Chiefs this weekend
Saracens hooker Jamie George is expecting a baptism of fire when he makes his first start of the season against Exeter Chiefs on Sunday.
Along with George, the Men in Black are expected to hand a first start to lock forward Alistair Hargreaves while Owen Farrell will continue at number 10 and prop Matt Stevens is set to make the bench after playing 20 minutes for Saracens Storm on Monday night.
George has made two substitute appearances this season and the 21-year-old admits that given Exeter’s strength in the pack, he will have to be on the top of his game this weekend.
“It’s really exciting for me to get a start, I’ve been champing at the bit, and to get it against such a big team like Exeter, away from home, is great,” he said.
“We know Exeter have got a brilliant scrum - they’re very much a set-piece orientated team and obviously as hooker that’s my responsibility so it’s good to test myself against one of the best set-piece teams in the Premiership.”
Along with six other players, George was taking part in a Level 1 football coaching course organised by Saracens and put on by the Hertfordshire Football Association.
The course is just one part of the club’s Personal Development Programme which offers players the chance to explore a variety of activities which they might pursue after their rugby careers finish.
George said: “Pretty much everyone here is doing something outside of rugby which is what makes Saracens so special.
“It’s something we pride ourselves on and it actually makes us better rugby players because it takes our mind off things and makes us realise it’s not all about rugby.”
George, who has represented England at Under-16, Under-18 and Under-20 level, is tipped for a bright future in the game but the youngster insists he’s taking it one step at a time.
“I’m still young so I just want to develop,” he said.
“I’d love to play in some of the bigger games this season - to start in those games and play a key role would be great.”
Saracens’ biggest game of the season so far came last Saturday against title rivals Leicester Tigers but the match, which ended a 9-9 draw, was blighted by handling errors and sloppy distribution.
George says the squad reviewed the game and tried to take the positives.
He said: “We were frustrated because we felt we probably should have won that game but we’ve looked at our mistakes and hopefully we can take those lessons into this weekend.”
Particularly disappointing was the performance of fly-half Owen Farrell who missed four out of five first-half penalties and was substituted soon after half-time.
But Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall insists Farrell’s response this week has been good.
“Owen’s fine, he’s a pretty strong character and he’s got a very strong temperament,” McCall said.
“What people have to realise is the Leicester game was his first start of the season so it might take a bit of time. Owen’s absolutely fine.”
McCall is expecting a tough game at Exeter but insists his side will play their own game at Sandy Park.
“Exeter are the most improved team in the Premiership over the past 24 months, it’s been absolutely remarkable what they’ve achieved, they came fifth last year and it’s a very daunting prospect going over there.
“But we’ve got our own way of playing, we know what makes us successful and we’ll approach the game in the same way as we normally do.”
Chris Ashton is expected to play despite spending the evening in hospital after he was attacked with a glass in a London nightclub last Saturday.
Ashton, who joined Saracens from Northampton in the summer, was celebrating a fifth anniversary with his girlfriend when he was confronted by a stranger.
The England winger is believed to have pushed the first assailant away before another person struck him round the face with a glass.
Ashton has been involved in a handful of unsavoury incidents including the infamous dwarf-throwing night out at the World Cup in New Zealand this time last year.
But both Ashton and the club were quick to downplay his role in the incident.
Saracens CEO Edward Griffiths said: "It is a reality that well known sports people are provoked by strangers and subsequent events are instantly tweeted.
"People will inevitably see this story and say an England rugby player is in trouble again.
"For clarity, Chris Ashton is not in trouble at all. On the contrary, he was celebrating an anniversary with his girlfriend and showed admirable restraint.”
Ashton himself wrote on Twitter: "Some bloke decided to spoil an evening out for me and my missus. No stitches needed."