It’s a measure of how far George Kruis has come with England that the possibility of him being banned for their June tour to Australia was viewed as a disaster.
“A travesty” of a citing, according to Saracens forwards coach Alex Sanderson (via The Guardian), for biting Bath’s David Wilson was swiftly dismissed late on Tuesday, to free Kruis up for a run-in of huge potential, first with Saracens in the Premiership and Europe, before Grand Slam winners England travel to face the Wallabies.
Kruis, bizarrely left off the shortlist for the Six Nations’ Player of the Championship, had stronger claims than most of those nominated to be named the tournament’s best player after a breakthrough campaign.
England in recent years looked set, with a lock pairing of Joe Launchbury and Courtney Lawes primed to make the English second row their own for the next decade, but both have been overtaken by Kruis and his Saracens partner Maro Itoje in the blink of an eye.
Itoje’s athleticism is likely to mean the focus always rests on him, which you sense is absolutely fine with the 26-year-old Kruis lining up alongside him for club and country.
Saracens boss Mark McCall picked out Kruis as “a dead cert” to start for England before the start of this year’s Six Nations after a dominant outing in the Premiership against Leicester, and that hunch has proved to be right on the money.
Naturally being paired with Itoje suggests that, according to the archetype of past great second row pairings, that Kruis must be the brute to Itoje’s flair – but that does a disservice to the abilities of Kruis on both sides of the ball.
He possesses the kind of engine and work-rate that coaches dream of, breaking the line with his carrying and never shy to offload. More importantly, England’s lineout was imperious in the Six Nations, run impressively by Kruis at the first time of asking.
England won a combined 27 out of 27 lineouts during the final two matches of their Grand Slam campaign against Wales and France, with Kruis stealing two against Ireland and three in Paris. The numerous hours studying in front of a laptop paid off, paired with the coaching of his former team-mate and now England forwards coach Steve Borthwick.
Now, with his citing quashed, Kruis is free to set his sights on more silverware, starting with Saturday’s Champions Cup quarter-final against Northampton Saints.
Saracens form in their last two matches has been exemplary – brushing off Premiership play-off rivals Exeter and then punishing Bath with slick handling last Friday – suggesting that more trophies are on the way.
For Kruis there are no signs of a post-Six Nations lull, recording 16 tackles and two lineout steals at The Rec, as his season continues at a ripping pace towards potential dates in Lyon for the Champions Cup final and Twickenham again as Saracens bid to defend their Premiership crown, before setting off to Australia for three Tests against the Wallabies.
Kruis has gone from a combined 35 minutes on the pitch during the Rugby World Cup, comprised of two appearances off the bench against Australia and Uruguay, to an instant starter in a matter of months.
At that rate by this time next year, the tireless Kruis may have sewn up a Lions starting spot.
Ben Coles, Pundit Arena
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