Saracens stars excited for fans return against Ampthill: ‘2,000 is going to feel like 80,000’

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<p>Jamie George cannot wait for Saracens fans to return</p> (Getty Images)

Jamie George cannot wait for Saracens fans to return

(Getty Images)

Fans return to rugby in London for the first time in more than six months on Monday night as star-studded Saracens take on Ampthill in front of 2,000 people at StoneX Stadium.

From there, it comes thick and fast. On Tuesday, London Irish welcome fans to their new Brentford home against champions Exeter Chiefs. On Saturday, the Allianz Premier 15s semi-finals take place in the north and south of the city.

For Sarries and England hooker Jamie George, Monday’s game simply cannot come soon enough. For director of rugby Mark McCall, shifting the game from Saturday to Monday – thus creating a five-day turnaround ahead of their next fixture against Coventry – is worth it, just to feel the buzz of spectators.

“It will make a huge difference,”said McCall. “All players play on emotion. While they have all been used to the empty stadiums, it’s never the same. Even to have 2,000 people there will make a massive difference.”

It is a regret for McCall that his side have not received an authentic Championship experience this year, but he is pleased that they will face home support when they meet Coventry on Saturday.

“We’d have loved to have gone to all these places and played in front of their crowds,” he said.

“We’d rather have a five-day turnaround and play in front of a crowd, than a seven-day turnaround and have played in front of an empty stadium at the weekend. We’re seeing the positives in it. Everyone is going to be busy, but they are two very important games for us.”

George is part of a Sarries starting side featuring 11 internationals with another, Alex Goode, returning on the bench after his loan spell in Japan. George last played in front of fans in December, when England hosted 2,000 people at Twickenham for the Autumn Nations Cup Final against France.

“It’s 2,000 we’re allowed in, and that’s going to feel like 80,000,” he said. “I’ve found without fans, it felt like highs weren’t as high and the lows weren’t as low. It felt flatter for longer. I had to find ways of making sure I was more in tune with the game, so I was as high and low.

“You had to find more of an emotional connection to the game, rather than feedback of crowd noise.”

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