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The secret behind the ‘magical’ rise of George Furbank

There’s no hiding George Furbank had a tough start to his international career.

Thrust into the spotlight under Eddie Jones in 2020, he struggled to find his feet in an England shirt. Making his debut at a a packed-out Stade de France, unforced errors from Furbank complicated England’s game plan as France took victory. Things only got worse from there, as he struggled to transfer his club form across to England, and was later left in the international wilderness.

He won just three more caps between the Autumn Nations Cup in 2020 and his return to the squad during this year’s Six Nations, but since then, he has had a magical rise back to the test stage; and has made the number 15 jersey his own.

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How George Furbank became an important player under Borthwick

George Furbank has seemingly displaced Freddie Steward as England’s first choice fullback. From Steward’s test debut in 2021, he started a record 28 consecutive tests, ending in last year’s Rugby World Cup match against Chile. Steward, of course, has his own unique qualities; but Furbank offers something different to the attack.

The experiment of moving Marcus Smith to fullback showed England are wanting to use this role as an extra link in the chain, rather than their usual 10/12 axis. However, with Furbank more comfortable in this role he has quickly settled into the new Borthwick attack.

And it is working, as Furbank has quickly become one of England’s most important players. Shown most recently by England’s narrow loss to New Zealand, Furbank hardly put a foot wrong. In attack, he really dragged England forward, and was able to bring Immanuel Feyi-Waboso into the game as well.

He was also strong under the high ball under extreme pressure from Sevu Reece. Furbank also brought heaps of physicality in defence, most notably his huge hit on Rieko Ioane was met with great plaudits from English supporters.

Eye-catching form at Northampton

His ability to play as both fly-half and full back has only served to improve his all-round rugby ability.

At Northampton, Furbank regularly switches between 10 and 15 during games and is able to positively impact his side’s attack. During the 2023/24 season, Furbank ranked 7th in carries, demonstrating his ball-in-hand ability.

His ability to play both positions also makes him pivotal in Northampton’s attack. Like how England are starting to use him, he also acts as a link in the back-field, which then brings Tommy Freeman, Ollie Sleightholme, George Hendy and James Ramm into the game more.

Northampton’s attack is all about attacking space, which is typically in those wider channels, and using Furbank in this way allows their speedsters to motor through space more regularly.

As alluded to above, Furbank has also improved a lot in the contact. Before this season, was fairly timid in contact; but after the Saints enforced bulk during pre-season, he is a force to be reckoned with in this area.

This is credit to Northampton’s coaching team as they have embarked on specific training plans, focused on creating bigger and faster players. This has certainly paid off for Furbank who can now say he is in ‘the form of his life’.

With England shaping up to face off against the All Blacks in their second test, Furbank will be as important as he was in the first. Eden Park beckons and Furbank will surely rise to the challenge.

Freddie Steward will be wondering how Furbank was able to challenge him for the 15 jersey but for now, Furbank has cemented himself as one of the first names on the team sheet.

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