- Saracen looks back on debut against the All Blacks
- Lock urges forwards to find another gear
George Kruis can feel quietly content with his individual display on international debut during Saturday’s 24-21 defeat to New Zealand, but is already itching to improve as England look towards their second QBE International against South Africa this weekend.
Watched on by a strong family contingent – two brothers as well as his mother, father and a handful of cousins – the Saracens lock did not look remotely out of place at Test level.
Replacing Courtney Lawes just 22 minutes into the piece, he filled the remaining hour with immense industry. Proving extremely effective alongside in-form Bath Rugby man Dave Attwood, Kruis racked up 16 tackles, took three lineouts and hit 21 rucks.
His athletic frame also contributed to a very sturdy scrum, but the frustrating result left him with mixed feelings.
“It was obviously a massive moment for me in my career and my family as a whole,” he explained after Monday morning’s gym session at Pennyhill Park. “I guess to lose quite a close game was disappointing as well – we could definitely have won it.
“Courtney obviously went down with a head injury early doors but he was fine, so I relaxed. Then he got hit again and had to come off. I’d got up and sat down a couple of times, but I was ready when the time came.
“It was a solid first game, but you realise that if you make mistakes they are punished a lot more at this level. I’m happy, but there are things I can work on.”
Praising the pack as a whole for “dragging penalties” out of New Zealand in scrums and mauls, Kruis highlighted the cohesion of Graham Rowntree’s forwards.
However, he also conceded that England could perhaps find another gear in terms of loose play, and that the All Blacks taught them a lesson in terms of territorial management – especially in the second half.
Shifting focus to the Springboks, who head to the home of England Rugby on the back of a comprehensive 29-15 loss to Ireland, Kruis seemed acutely aware of what lies ahead.
Having shared a dressing room with numerous South Africans on club duty, the 24 year-old was well versed on their traditional attributes.
“They’re big players, so set-piece has to be a big target for us – it’ll be a physical encounter. The way they play territory as well is something we have to watch out for.
“We have a fair few South Africans down at Saracens and they are all hard-working, honest people.
“With them, what you see is what you get.”