England's George commits to scandal-hit Saracens

3 min

London (AFP)

Jamie George has become the first England player to commit his future to Saracens despite the disgraced Premiership and European champions imminent relegation to the Championship.

The London club will be playing in the second tier of English rugby union next season after being hit with a huge 105-point penalty and £5.36 million ($7.02 million) fine for breaches of the Premiership's salary cap.

That has placed a question mark over the Saracens' futures of England captain Owen Farrell and his fellow World Cup finalists George, Maro Itoje and Elliot Daly.

But George, asked by reporters in London on Thursday if he would be staying put said: "That's the plan. I want to stay at the club and I want to be part of the transition."

There are concerns England players who remain at Saracens could be risking their future selection for the national team and a place in the squad for next year's British and Irish Lions tour of South Africa.

However, the likes of George may be spared more from the weekly club grind in the Championship, potentially meaning they are fresher for Test duty.

"I love the club, I'm committed to the club and next season might be an opportunity to rest a little bit more," said George.

As for his fellow Red Rose stars at Saracens, the veteran of 49 Tests for England added: "I genuinely don't know."

- 'Money isn't a factor' -

Saracens have been bankrolled throughout the professional era by Nigel Wray but the businessman stood down as chairman following the financial scandal which in part centred on his policy of not declaring controversial co-investments with the likes of Farrell, Itoje and Mako Vunipola as salary.

"Money isn't a factor for me at all," said George. "It's great that we earn money doing what we love, but at the same time I grew up going to Vicarage Road with my old man.

"Playing for Saracens was everything. And that's still how I feel now."

While Saracens players have largely been absolved of blame, questions have been asked about whether they had any suspicions about how so many star names were contained within one squad

"I never wondered," insisted George. "We all came through at the same time and the club just seemed to be evolving and obviously then things got out of hand in the background and the accounts didn't add up."

Asked if he felt let down by Saracens, the front-row added: "It's difficult. They have shown a huge amount of loyalty to me and remorse in terms of what they have done and that is appreciated.

"It's right the players don't take the responsibility.

"The opportunities that Nigel Wray has given to me as a person from the age of 17... he has invested so much time into me and love so I will be forever grateful for that."

George, 29, added playing for England meant he had "something else to focus on" away from Saracens' problems, which intensijamiejamie georgefied with Thursday's announcement that German insurance firm Allianz's sponsorship of the club would finish at the end of the season.

England started the Six Nations with a 24-17 defeat by France in Paris -- their first match since losing last year's World Cup final to South Africa -- before returning to winning ways with a 13-6 victory away to Scotland last weekend.

Their next opponents are Grand Slam-chasing Ireland, coached by Andy Farrell, Owen's father, at Twickenham on February 23.

"We are aware we've got a long way to go and I think Ireland will be a huge test for us," said George.