England experience is perfect preparation as Furbank and Saints travel to Bristol

When Saints go marching in against Bristol tonight, they will undoubtedly be greeted by a big crowd under the lights at Ashton Gate.

By Tom Vickers
Friday, 26th November 2021, 7:00 am
George Furbank
George Furbank

But for George Furbank, it will be nothing compared to what he experienced at Twickenham a few weeks ago, when he was parachuted into the fly-half role against Tonga following a false positive Covid test for Owen Farrell.

So it's no wonder that the Saints star is relaxed when he speaks to this publication at the club's weekly media day ahead of the Bears battle.

"It's been a really enjoyable experience - I've loved my time in camp," said Furbank, who returned from England duty earlier this week.

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"Obviously I've been training and I played my game at 10, which was a good learning curve and one I really enjoyed.

"I'd been training at 10 a bit and I was obviously expecting to be covering 15 for that game but Faz went down with a false positive Covid case.

"I was a little bit nervous because it was my first game in front of 80,000 at Twickenham anyway so I was nervous anyway but going into that starting role was even more nervewracking.

"Everyone made my role a bit easier and I really enjoyed it."

Furbank performed well at 10 for England, pulling the strings as they trounced Tonga 69-3.

And the five-cap 25-year-old says his experiences of starting at fly-half for Saints stood him in good stead.

"If I'd been chucked in there and hadn't played at all at 10 then it would have been a different story, but I've obviously played here at 10, trained quite a bit at 10 with England and I had that under my belt, which helped," he said.

Furbank has not played in either of England's past two games, meaning he comes back to Saints hungry for game time and in good shape.

"The training's tough with England so it's not like you've got a couple of weeks to put your feet up or anything like that, but my body's feeling good and I'm ready to go," he said.

"We're all feeling pretty relaxed.

"We're wary we've got a big block of fixtures coming up with Bristol away, Bath at home and then into Europe and then three tough games on the bounce in the Prem.

"It doesn't get any easier and we've got a really tough block.

"Boydy (Saints boss Chris Boyd) has spoken this week about it potentially defining our season so we've got to be ready to go."

Saints have lost their past four matches in all competitions, with Furbank missing all of them.

But he has kept in touch with how his club has been doing.

"Obviously big Colesy (Alex Coles) was skipper for a couple of weeks and he's my housemate so I kept in touch with him," Furbank said.

"It was cool to see him being able to do that.

"I've watched a few highlights of how the boys went and they looked like they were doing well.

"It looks like there is some good talent coming through."

Saints sit fifth in the Premiership standings, while this week's opponents, Bristol, are currently 11th.

And a lively encounter is expected.

"They play a pretty expansive style of rugby," Furbank said.

"They're not in the best form and we go into it on the back of four losses as well so it will be a big test going down to Ashton Gate on Friday night with a big crowd.

"It's exciting but it will be a good challenge."