In the hall of George Furbank’s Northampton home, an England cap is proudly displayed, mounted on the wall, alongside others representing the Saints and Bedford School.
He walks into the kitchen and there is a framed photo of Joe Root, who was the national cricket captain at the time, holding a sign that says “good luck Furbs.” These memories of his first spell as a Test player show that the winger remembers that time fondly. But it was hard. Very hard.
As he prepares for an international relaunch, Furbank has spoken exclusively to Mail Sport about the events of four years ago, when he was thrust into England’s starting line-up while still a rookie at professional level and endured an awkward introduction to the top. of sport.
He will start at Murrayfield with the comforting experience of being part of a winning team there in 2020, but a brutal debut in Paris the previous week had taken its toll.
Furbank, now 27 and thriving as unbeaten captain of his resurgent Premiership-leading club, feels ready for what lies ahead. But the first time he was chosen to play for his country he didn’t feel ready. In retrospect, it was too soon.
George Furbank has spoken exclusively to Mail Sport about the events of four years ago as he prepares to start for England against Scotland this weekend.
Furbank was thrown in deep against France at the Stade de France by Eddie Jones in 2020
The 27-year-old will return to the England squad for the Six Nations clash against Scotland.
When asked to relive the episode, Furbank speaks about it calmly and philosophically. “He had only played 25 or 30 games for the club,” he said. ‘I was still active and hanging out with the Saints at the time. I thought I was going to gain experience in camp and be on international teams but, in the end, I wouldn’t play in that season. I came in with that mindset of just learning and enjoying being at camp.
“So going straight to a game after being selected for my first camp was a bit of a shock. I still remember it with so much affection. Making my debut was incredibly special, something I never thought I would do. “I may not have been prepared or expecting it, but I’m very glad it happened to me.”
Eddie Jones was in charge of England at the time and decided to throw Furbank into the back of the Stade de France. “There were some injuries when we were in Portugal for our training camp, so I started thinking, ‘There’s a chance I could be on the bench here,'” he said. “I was already getting screwed about that, so Eddie took me to a side at the end of training camp and told me, “There’s a good chance you’re going to start.” That took me by surprise.
“I really enjoyed that entire week of training, even though I was anxious about getting to the first game. He had never played in front of more than 15,000 people before. I knew I was going to play in front of 80,000 mental French people, so there was all this nervous energy around me.
The big day itself is “a bit of a blur,” four years later. Furbank remembers how he enjoyed singing the anthem with his clubmate Lewis Ludlam. He remembers sharing a “special moment” with his family in the locker room after the game. He also remembers that England “didn’t play very well” and was frustrated by the nagging feeling that he had not done himself justice.
Jones supported him privately and publicly, and picked Furbank again the following week for the trip to Murrayfield, which was reassuring for the rookie. But there was already an undercurrent of damning public criticism on social media, which came as a surprise and was a struggle to deal with.
“It was something I was quite naïve about as I had only played 25 or 30 games for the Saints and things had gone pretty well,” Furbank said. “Then you play for England, you look around and think, ‘God, there’s a lot of people commenting’. It was really difficult to deal with. There wasn’t much, but there were definitely some messages that made me think, ‘That really got to me a bit.’ .
Furbank remembers how he enjoyed singing the national anthem before his first call-up in 2020
Jones chose Furbank the following week but could not escape criticism on social media.
Furbank has led Northampton with authority and style in the number 15 shirt. He has more than earned his new opportunity in England.
‘There was a psychologist at the camp who helped me overcome those things. It was like a punch in the stomach. In the end, you’re disappointed with your performance, then some guy named Bob tells you that you’re shit too, and you’re like, “I don’t need that, cheers buddy.”
‘I had to keep my sister away from social media. She kept responding to the comments and I said, “Can you please stop doing that?” “Not a great look!” They (the family) are obviously protective and supportive. But ultimately, they remember the positive moments much more than some bad comments.
All the comments have been positive this season, from anyone who has seen Furbank lead Northampton with authority and style in the number 15 shirt. He has emphatically earned his new opportunity with England, having made just four international appearances since his last visit to Murrayfield in 2020. One factor that has helped him is the added responsibility of captaining the club.
“It’s something I love and never thought I could do,” he said. ‘I’m improvising, to be honest! He’s probably not the most motivational speaker of all time, but group speaking excites me. “It gives me another focus, knowing that I need my game to be at the highest level, so that the boys follow me.”
Gone is the naïve rookie: today Furbank is confident it is equipped with greater maturity, experience and resilience. This last quality is both physical and mental. He is having more punch, since he has bulked up in the preseason.
“Since Steve (Borthwick) arrived, I hadn’t been involved in any previous teams,” he said. ‘We had some talks about what I can add to my game. A big part of that was the physical side of things. At the Saints, the S&C (strength and conditioning) staff put a lot of focus during the preseason on us gaining some weight, so that helped me.
‘Now I feel better in the contact area, something that England talked about and that the Saints also talked about. That has benefited me. I have only gained two or three kilos, but my strength has increased a lot.’
So England’s last line of defense against Scotland is stronger and prepared for a fierce Calcutta Cup encounter, whilst remaining an instinctive and natural sportsman. After naming him, Borthwick mentioned seeing Furbank in the team room, playing darts with Freddie Steward, in which case he may have taken the Leicester man’s money, as well as his shirt.
Furbank spent six years studying environmental science through the Open University and gained a first class degree.
He has only played four international matches since that game against Scotland at Murrayfield four years ago.
There is a new garden room at his house containing a pool table and a dartboard, and Furbank has honed his skills to good effect. “I got good at darts and did a 180 on camera, which is probably one of the highlights of my life,” he joked. ‘That was filming for TNT a couple of years ago. Then I also got one (180) at the club.’
This is a talented all-rounder. Furbank spent six years studying environmental science at the Open University and gained a first class degree. Now that he has finished it and has more free time, he is teaching himself to play the keyboard.
But rugby is the main focus and, over the next few weeks, the clear objective is to rekindle his Test career. “I want to prove myself with England,” Furbank said. “I hope I can be myself and continue the form I have shown with the Saints.”
If he performs like he has this season for Northampton, there will be no stopping him this time, now that he is truly ready.