Billings happy to see old school friend George starring for England

Sam Billings spoke glowingly of his close bond with old school friend Jamie George, describing the England hooker as “brilliant” in helping him come to terms with missing out on this summer’s World Cup.

George has his own date with destiny this weekend, starting in the front row as England look to topple South Africa in the Rugby World Cup final in Yokohama.

Before George and Billings represented their countries in rugby union and cricket respectively, the pair met as teenagers as room-mates at Haileybury public school in Hertfordshire and their friendship has blossomed ever since.

Jamie George will start for England in the Rugby World Cup final this weekend (Ashley Western/PA)
Jamie George will start for England in the Rugby World Cup final this weekend (Ashley Western/PA)

Billings joked: “Every day I’d come back (to my room) and his head would be fully in my tuck trunk eating all my tuck! I wasn’t going to beat him up, was I?

“We are very fortunate we have a very close group of mates from those times. I think from very early on I realised he wanted to get to the top in his sport and he influenced me in terms of his work ethic. I think you have a mutual respect and push each other on.”

George had to wait patiently to become a regular starter with England, initially living in the shadow of Dylan Hartley, so he knew how to comfort Billings after a dislocated shoulder ruled the batsman out of the Cricket World Cup this summer.

Billings added: “He was brilliant. Getting that perspective from another sport I think is really helpful.

“He knows about that kind of opportunity and we both know each other’s situation so much, like when he was getting frustrated with Dylan Hartley and that situation of having to bide his time.

“We have that mutual respect and are very open and honest with each other and with that very supportive. He’s an absolute legend.

“I’ll call myself biased but there’s never been any doubt in my mind about the quality of what he brings to any team as a bloke let alone as a player. I’m hugely proud of him and I’ve got no doubt he’ll do everyone proud.

“There’s not a guy who works harder in terms of off the field and stuff that he does away from everyone else.”

Asked whether George played cricket in his formative years, Billings replied: “He did yeah. And as you can imagine it was slightly agricultural but effective. He hit a clean ball.

Sam Billings is England's vice-captain for the Twenty20 series in New Zealand (Nigel French/PA)
Sam Billings is England’s vice-captain for the Twenty20 series in New Zealand (Nigel French/PA)

“He’s very good at hockey actually surprisingly. People laugh when I say that in 100 metres and 40-50-yard dash he was as quick as anyone. He seriously motors. As a sportsman he is very lucky.”

Billings is in New Zealand for five Twenty20s against the Black Caps, a series for which he has been appointed vice-captain, but insists he would have made the journey to Japan in different circumstances.

He added: “I’d have been straight out there if timings had worked out. A few of my mates have headed over there. A couple of the lads couldn’t get off work which is a pathetic excuse! But I can’t say much!

“The next best thing to playing in a World Cup final is watching it. I was in the Sky box watching our World Cup final and the next best thing is watching your mates win a World Cup. So hopefully I can watch two.”

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