George Kruis is weighing up the biggest decision of his rugby life – knowing it could mean next week’s Wales game being his last at Twickenham for England.
Kruis is a key cog in the Saracens machine but with the Londoners needing to slash their wage bill ahead of enforced relegation he is considering a big-money move to Japan.
Under Rugby Football Union selection rules, players plying their trade overseas are ineligible to play for England.
Kruis, 30, is set to win his 45th cap a week today and last night described his impending decision as “tough, but extremely exciting on all fronts”.
The Lions lock added: “It is a good opportunity, whatever I decide to do. Whether I stay, it's an unbelievable opportunity, if I go, it is also a great opportunity.
“This is something I need to sit down and have a proper think of, once we have finished up the Six Nations."
England are blessed with considerable strength in the second row department, Maro Itoje, Courtney Lawes, Joe Launchbury and Charlie Ewels having all featured in this Six Nations. But no side happily gives up a player of Kruis’ calibre.
Jamie George, his team mate for club and country, said: “George is incredibly impressive – one of the hardest working players you will find.”
When Kruis first rocked up at Saracens, however, George claims the senior players mistook him for a competition winner!
“I remember him joining as an 18-year-old,” smiled the England hooker. "He’d have to drive from Dorking every morning, getting up at 5am, not getting paid any money to do it.
“I think he was 90 kilos. He was awful, nothing short of that, a bad rugby player. Everyone was like: ‘we’re just handing trials out? He’s a competition winner?’
“Then the next minute he gets in the gym and puts on 29kg. In terms of standard-setting you don’t need to look much further.”
Liam Williams this week became the first of Saracens’ star names to ship out in the wake of the club being found guilty of multiple breaches of the salary cap.
The Wales ace has rejoined Scarlets and is expected to line up against England in seven days time for what could be Kruis’ 23rd and final Twickenham Test.
“It's always emotional playing for England, clearly an absolute privilege,” said Kruis, attempting to deflect from the potential significance of next week’s game.
“But you could get injured at any point and then not play. So for me it is very much a game at a time on that front.”
Ben Earl and Nick Tompkins prepare to go head-to-head in next week’s England-Wales clash by playing for the same Saracens team today at Northampton.
Earl, who won his first two caps off the bench against Scotland and Ireland, starts at openside flanker. Tompkins, who has made an equally striking start to his Test career for Wales, slots in at inside-centre – and finds himself up against Dragons' team mate Dan Biggar.
Elsewhere, Wales lock Will Rowlands starts for Wasps tomorrow at London Irish, while compatriots Rhys Webb and Taulupe Faletau line up for Bath against Bristol.
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