George Kruis is over his series of injuries and ready to prove why he should be first choice for England heading into a huge World Cup year.
Having missed the summer tour of South Africa to have surgery on his left ankle, Saracens lock Kruis was at his imposing best during last month’s Tests against South Africa and New Zealand before a minor calf tear curtailed his autumn.
With Kiwi John Mitchell in charge of defence, Kruis believes England are ready for a big Six Nations after showing improvments during the Autumn.
Kruis is leading Sarries’ charge for domestic and European honours once again as he prepares to face down challenges from Joe Launchbury, Courtney Lawes and Charlie Ewels to remain an integral part of the engine room.
Kruis, 28, told The Rugby Paper: “England are blessed with second rows and the younger ones coming through are looking pretty sharp as well, but experience-wise I’ve got some good years under my belt now and I’m feeling very good after my op.
“My left ankle had been giving me issues for about a year-and-a-half so I had to miss the South Africa tour to get that sorted out. They seem to have done a good job and I felt I was getting back to some top form against New Zealand and South Africa.
“Longer injuries can leave a dent, but I feel fresher and, although there are still improvements I can make, I’m lucky to have been playing in some big games for club and country and hope I can be part of England’s plans moving forward.
“Eddie’s managed to blood lots of people and we have a big squad to choose from so this is a big period for everyone going into the Six Nations.”
Kruis says the addition of new defence coach John Mitchell is paying instant dividends for England.
“I think we took really good steps forward,” Kruis added. “We had a fair chunk of injuries with Joe Launchbury and Mako and Billy Vunipola missing but had a very good outcome.
“We went through some unbelievable form in the first couple of years under Eddie Jones and then had a dip, but the rebuilding process has been important.
“Defensively we improved and John Mitchell made a big impact. You can tell he loves the role – loves defence – and he came in with new ideas. He tweaked a few things and across the board now there’s a really good understanding of where we’re at going into a big World Cup year.
“We went to-to-toe with the best of the Southern Hemisphere and it’s going to be a hell of a Six Nations now with teams like Ireland, Wales and Scotland in really good form. These are the competitions that count now.”
Meanwhile, Kruis is confident Saracens have the depth to create history by claiming an unprecedented quadruple. Unbeaten in 22 games prior to last weekend’s showdown at Exeter, the Men in Black are also well placed to reach the knock-out stages of the Heineken Champions Cup, Premiership Cup and second-string Premiership Shield.
Furthermore, he insists improvements are still to come. Kruis said: “We have good depth and we can keep rotating people to keep them fresh and improve as the campaign goes on.
“There’s been a mindset change from last year when we struggled before Christmas and this year the guys did unbelievably well to keep winning when people were away in the autumn.
“We don’t yet feel as though we’ve put in an 80-minute performance we can be fully proud of. If we can get through this period and hit top form at the back end of the season, look out.”
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