I’m still im­prov­ing, Kruis warns ri­vals

The Rugby Paper - - News - ■ By NEALE HAR­VEY

GE­ORGE Kruis ad­mits be­ing dropped by the Lions was hard to take but in­sists lessons from the three-Test se­ries against New Zealand will stand both him and Eng­land in good stead.

Sara­cens en­forcer Kruis over­came mul­ti­ple in­jury set­backs to earn a place on the tour and then start the first Test in Auck­land. How­ever, a lack­lus­tre dis­play in a 30-15 de­feat saw him dumped by head coach War­ren Gat­land, who re­placed him with club­mate Maro Itoje.

Kruis failed to make the bench in Tests two and three with Court­ney Lawes se­lected in­stead, but the 27year-old has quickly come to terms with his dis­ap­point­ment and is de­ter­mined to win back his Eng­land place dur­ing the au­tumn in­ter­na­tion­als. Kruis told The Rugby

Pa­per: “When you un­der­per­form in a game when you know there’s a lot more in you, it’s very tough to take. But this is part and par­cel of play­ing rugby, it’s how you bounce back that re­ally counts.

“I’d like to think that I pre­sented my­self well in train­ing. I cer­tainly felt part of the over­all ef­fort for the sec­ond and third Tests in terms of help­ing the guys and I like to think I con­trib­uted.

“It was an in­cred­i­ble ex­pe­ri­ence to be part of. I ob­vi­ously didn’t play the way I wanted to in that first Test, but to get back from hav­ing three oper­a­tions in a year and put my­self in con­tention to start was some­thing I can still feel mas­sively proud about.”

De­spite be­com­ing a ful­lyfledged Lion, Kruis now faces the twin chal­lenge of nail­ing down a start­ing spot at Sara­cens amid in­creased sec­ond row com­pe­ti­tion, whilst forc­ing his way back into an Eng­land set-up brim­ming with fresh young op­tions at lock.

Sara­cens team­mate Nick Isiekwe, right, im­pressed for Eng­land along­side Joe Launch­bury and Char­lie Ewels in Ar­gentina in June, while Kruis con­cedes the ar­rival of ex­pe­ri­enced in­ter­na­tional duo Will Skel­ton and Do­minic Day has sig­nif­i­cantly upped the ante at Al­lianz Park.

He said: “Sara­cens have re­cruited un­be­liev­ably well and it feels like we’ve got a much bet­ter squad than last sea­son, which is say­ing some­thing.

“Will Skel­ton had a short spell with us last sea­son and clearly wanted to im­prove as a player. He wants to do all the ex­tras and if you’re go­ing sign some­one for a long time, that’s ex­actly what you want to see from an ex­pe­ri­enced in­ter­na­tional.

“If you’ve got that you can re­ally get the ball rolling and with my­self, Maro, Dom Day, Mark Flana­gan and good young lads like Nick Isiekwe and Danny Cut­more as well, not only do we have the depth to with­stand in­ter­na­tional pe­ri­ods, we’ve got the fu­ture cov­ered as well.” Of Isiekwe’s abil­ity to make an im­pact this sea­son, Kruis adds: “He’s proved with his Eng­land caps al­ready that he can live on the big stage and while he’s got some learn­ing to do, he’s def­i­nitely hun­gry and he’s a sim­ply phe­nom­e­nal ath­lete around the park. “You look at his stature and he’s got a bit of Maro about him – big, with a good work ethic – and it’s just a case of him learn­ing his trade now.

“In our sec­ond row over the past year we’ve been quite tight on ro­ta­tion be­cause we haven’t had the num­bers, but we can bring that back a bit more now to keep guys fresh while giv­ing peo­ple like Nick their op­por­tu­nity.”

As for his own Eng­land am­bi­tions this Novem­ber, Kruis said: “I just want to get back play­ing for Eng­land again be­cause I haven’t fea­tured since last au­tumn and there are some good sec­ond rows out there who’ve taken their chances.

“We’ve had a catch-up with the rel­e­vant Eng­land coaches and it’s a team that just wants to keep im­prov­ing. I’m 27, so the way I look at it is that I’ve got a lot more im­prove­ment left in me.”

Hav­ing had a close-up view of New Zealand, Kruis agrees with coach Ed­die Jones’ as­ser­tion that Eng­land must im­prove their fit­ness and skills by 15-20 per cent if they are to over­take the world cham­pi­ons be­tween now and the 2019 World Cup.

He said: “There are def­i­nitely things you can take from what New Zealand do; they’re con­stantly alive, al­ways on their met­tle and you saw that with the tap and go try they scored in the first Test when we just com­pletely switched off.

“Ed­die’s right to put a big em­pha­sis on our fit­ness, too, be­cause the fit­ter you are, the bet­ter de­ci­sions you’ll make be­cause you’re more likely to be on the ball.”

PIC­TURE: Getty Im­ages

Lion hearted: Ge­orge Kruis drives the ball up in the first Test against the All Blacks

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