Ellis Genge in action for Leicester Tigers against Wasps
Credit: GETTY IMAGES
Ellis Genge is relishing a leadership role for England after a strong finish to the Premiership season with Leicester Tigers, whether or not Eddie Jones hands him the official captaincy this summer.
Deputising for Tom Youngs, who was stood down after a confrontation with referee Ian Tempest a week previously, Genge led Tigers to a 38-31 victory over Wasps at the Ricoh Arena on Saturday afternoon. An entertaining win, punctuated by five tries, sealed sixth place in the domestic table for Steve Borthwick’s side.
Having scored twice in each of Leicester’s wins against Harlequins and Worcester Warriors last month, Genge produced another influential performance full of set-piece power and dynamism around the pitch.
Afterwards, the 26-year-old loosehead prop admitted that he has been motivated by an under-par Six Nations with England as well as a desire to help Leicester emerge from their slump.
“I didn’t want to come back, having not had the greatest tournament with England, and fall back into a trap,” he said.
“I wanted to come back and push because I wasn’t satisfied with the way I played or the way we performed.
“I wanted to come back and give everything I had for the boys at the club because, at the end of the day, that’s where you spend most of your time.”
A tally of 28 caps makes Genge the most experienced figure in a 34-man England training squad, which will assemble on Monday ahead of an ‘A’ fixture against Scotland at Welford Road before Test meetings with USA and Canada.
Sam Underhill (22 caps), Charlie Ewels (21 caps) and Dan Robson (12 caps) are the next down the list, which comprises 21 men yet to make a Test appearance.
“There are a lot of uncapped players,” Genge said of the group, which will not include individuals from the Premiership semi-finalists until those defeated in the play-offs join up after next weekend.
“I have the most caps in the squad, so there aren’t that many floating about and it will be a challenge for me in terms of leadership off the pitch and bringing [the uncapped players] into an environment where they can be themselves – because we’ve got some great players.
“Sam Underhill is someone else who is a youngster as well but has a fair few caps. We have to step up and try to lead that and prepare the boys as best we can.”
Eddie Jones is preparing for games against Scotland, the USA and Canada
Tighthead prop Joe Heyes, lock Harry Wells, blindside flanker George Martin, centre Dan Kelly and full-back Freddie Steward are five more Tigers poised to join up with Jones and England.
All of them appeared against Wasps, with Martin and Kelly particularly eye-catching. Borthwick also highlighted the progress of England under-20 scrum-half Jack van Poortvliet, but spared extra praise for Genge’s captaincy.
“I think Ellis led the team really, really well,” Borthwick added. “His performances are wholehearted and players follow him. When he speaks, he grabs the room. But he leads by actions.”
On a sunny afternoon in front of over 7,000 fans in Coventry, a tit-for-tat Midlands derby featured nine tries. Cameron Henderson and Matt Scott, both Scotland summer call-ups, as well as Dan Cole, Julian Montoya and Tomas Lavanini crossed for the visitors.
Sione Vailanu’s double was complemented by further Wasps scores from Jacob Umaga, the sole specialist fly-half in England’s latest squad, and Will Rowlands.
Just nine months on from being thrashed 54-7 on the same ground, Tigers were indebted to some dogged defence and the 13 points kicked by fly-half Johnny McPhillips. Wasps, who lost Alfie Barbeary due to a facial fracture sustained in their team run on Friday, will join Leicester in the 2021-22 Champions Cup thanks to two bonus points.
“In terms of fight, passion and the togetherness of the boys, we’re a 10 out of 10,” said head coach Lee Blackett.
“In terms of execution, we’re a little bit off. We’re not a million miles away. We’ve been missing key players for large parts of the season and the games we’ve lost, especially recently, have been ridiculously tight games that could have gone either way.”