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'Bollocks': What Ellis Genge said in 2020 about loyalty in rugby

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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Wednesday’s shock announcement that England loosehead Ellis Genge will quit Leicester at the end of the 2021/22 season for a now confirmed return to his hometown Bristol has lit up social media where there have been plenty of opinions from the opposite ends of the spectrum. 

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Leicester boss Steve Borthwick explained in the club’s statement revealing Genge’s plan to leave that it “is a personal decision for Ellis“. Some fans have fully embraced this rationale. “That’s professional sport, good luck to him. He’s been an outstanding servant for Leicester,” read one tweet after the Genge exit revelation broke.

However, there were other posts critical of the departure. “Struggling to understand why he would want to leave such a great club and let’s face it this club has put him on the straight and narrow.” 

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Aside from a 59-word paragraph included at the end of the Leicester statement, Genge had been silent about his reasons to exit the Tigers, his club since his arrival there from Bristol in 2016.

The views of the Leicester prop regarding loyalty in rugby were perhaps best summed up, though, in a January 2020 interview Genge gave to House of Rugby, the show that features James Haskell and has since become The Good, The Bad and The Rugby. The 26-year-old spoke at length about how rugby is a business and that players have to look after themselves as best they can.

“It pains to see articles by I don’t know who,” he began when broaching the emotive theme of loyalty in rugby. “A good example would be when Jonny (May) left Gloucester, he found a clause in his contract that he manipulated to leave Gloucester and everyone was, ‘We looked after him in his academy years here’. F*** off. It’s a work environment. If you want to leave Tesco and go to Asda, I’m sure your manager ain’t screaming at you, ‘You can’t f***in do that? That is our direct competitor, they’re two roads up’.

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“They ain’t going to say that. No one has got a problem with that and you sort of forget that sport now, especially rugby even more so because the money has gone up, it’s a business. You see about all the salary cap stuff, it’s a business. If people ain’t got room for you in their cap… if they ain’t got money for someone they are going to get rid of them no matter if they have been there eight years or nine.”

At that time nearly two years ago, the big news in the game in England was the Saracens salary cap controversy which ultimately resulted in their automatic relegation from the Premiership. Before that automatic drop had been confirmed, it had emerged that Liam Williams would be leaving for the Scarlets as the London club strove to try and get its cap in order. 

“That is what I am saying (about no loyalty) and he was their best thing since sliced bread,” continued Genge. “He was unreal, don’t get me wrong, but he was their [Saracens’] answer and now you have to find a different answer and that is fine for clubs to do that but when a player does that there is uproar. And that is why I am saying it is bollocks. 

“I am not saying there is no loyalty left in rugby. Maybe I said it but that is not what I mean, what I am saying is it is bollocks to think that just because you have been somewhere for ten years that you are going to get very well looked after. To be fair to Leicester I do think they do look after players very well post finishing if you have been there a long time.

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“At the same time there are people in the game who absolutely milk it and don’t give anything to a club and I do think that should be pushed out as well, but you have got to have a balance. You can’t expect an arm and a leg from a player and then give them f*** all when they retire. 

“That is what I say to people when I have got fans peppering me when we were losing at Leicester… I have literally got fans saying that we don’t care. What the f*** are you on about? I got up here at seven o’clock for seven months, whatever it was, to go in and do rehab and wait three hours to do weights so all the boys who were playing could come and do weights. 

“You’re sat there, you are twiddling your thumbs, you are losing your mind. Everything that you give psychologically and all the body parts that go missing, do you know what I mean? Everyone seems to forget that as soon you finish playing. It’s ‘he jumped ship’. You have got to look after yourself and that is instinct… you’ve got to look after yourself.”

 

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