Taking on Europe! George Nott on the Exiles Challenge Cup opponents and more.
In the midst of the first run of Challenge Cup games London Irish are flexing their squad depth, giving players a rest here and there and allowing depth players opportunities as they did throughout the restart period. But a few players are continually relied on to support the team. One of them, a player whose stature rose in every game through the summer was George Nott the former Sale Sharks second row has evolved into one of the Exiles’ most reliable performers with a run of quietly strong performances. We caught up with him this week to get his thoughts on how the season is going.
“The restart was great for me. As unfortunate as it was in the grand scheme of things, for me personally it was an opportunity to string some games together and develop my confidence. That’s carried onto this year as well.” If there’s a first impression I get from speaking to George it’s that he’s one to always look on the bright side. He saw the positives for himself even while acknowledging that the restart, at a time when many were still effectively locked down, was a difficult period for others.
It’s clear that a strong run of games has done him the world of good too. He’s the sort of player who quietly gets on and gets better with each appearance, something Declan Kidney must have noticed given the responsibility placed on Nott’s shoulders. “Calling the lineouts is a big thing for me. That’s a responsibility Declan game me for quite a few of the games and I’ve really enjoyed that. It’s a big part of my game and something I’m trying to develop.” Taking on calling the line outs is always a sign of trust in a lock and not one that Nott takes lightly when I push him a little more on the subject. “It’s nice to feel really involved in the team with a responsibility like that, and it’s challenging too. I enjoy learning about different teams week on week, learning what’s best for us that week and creating a set list of line outs. It’s something I really enjoy… a big challenge, but it’s been great!”
If Nott is now firmly entrenched in the second row, that wasn’t always the case. Indeed, when he first signed at Irish he was thought to be more of a blindside flanker. For him it’s all semantics though. “Locks and sixes are quite interchangeable these days. Look at Itoje, Isiekwe and boys like that… It’s really important at the line out that you have three main jumpers at least. I don’t see myself as one or the other to be honest, but as both. I used to play a lot more 6 when I was younger because I was really skinny. I struggled to put weight on and wasn’t quite trusted in the engine room but now I’ve bulked up I’m comfortable there. As long as I’m on the pitch I don’t mind.”
With Adam Coleman returning from injury and Rob Simmons flying in from Wallabies duty the engine room at Irish will be hotly contested, but with very few gaps in the schedule there should be lots of opportunities for all their locks. “I managed to meet him early in the week.” Nott says when asked about Simmons. It’s a lot of competition, but in every position you want the best. Not just to learn from but for me to drive myself on as well. You don’t want to be selected by default, that will catch up with you. I want the best competition possible to develop my career!”
After a strong result against Agen last week, a game that George got a well-earned rest from, the team host Pau this weekend. Nott is back in the starting line-up and is wary of his opposition. French teams are, as he quickly points out, famously unpredictable, especially away from home. The teams are named after we speak and Pau have 7 academy graduates in their squad, lads who just might have a point to prove, so it should make for interesting viewing.
After finally moving to Brentford, the last home game saw London Irish swelled by having their fans in attendance, but the move to tier 3, and now into virtual lockdown in tier 4, has meant a return to closed door match ups for the team. So how was it seeing the community stadium put to use by the first few Exiles fans? “There’s no denying it’s a big positive when the fans are there, it makes a big difference!”
So how are the team going to address that support being taken away again? “I guess we’re lucky that we have the excitement of the new stadium to carry us through. Every time we go the boys are excited just to be playing there so I guess we’re in a lucky position. We can’t wait to have the fans back though, it’s not the same without them. You make a big tackle and it’s just radio silence… We like to hear the noise around us!”