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Damning Rugby Pod verdict: 'Genge looked like he wasn't interested'

By Liam Heagney
Ellis Genge grapples with Leicester's James Cronin (Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images)

Rugby Pod co-host Andy Goode believes the abject performance last Saturday by Ellis Genge on his return to his old club Leicester was a symptom of deeper problems at Bristol that could ultimately lead to the sacking of director of rugby Pat Lam. The Bears had arrived at Mattioli Woods Welford Road on the back of a four-game winning streak that had lifted them out of the doldrums near the foot of the Gallagher Premiership table.

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However, having thrived during the league’s Six Nations period, they struggled in the first round since the completion of that championship and were blown away in the second half at Leicester, losing 46-24.

Bristol had just gone 17-15 in front when Genge, the England round four skipper versus France, was introduced off the bench for Yann Thomas but they were eclipsed by four tries to one during his half-hour-plus stint on the pitch.

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Retired England out-half Goode took a dim view of what he saw regarding Genge and claimed it was symptomatic of dressing room unrest that could jeopardise the Bristol stewardship of Lam – even though he is tied to a multi-year deal at the Ashton Gate club.

The seventh-place Bristol are 10 points off fourth with just three matches remaining, leaving them unlikely to make the playoffs for the second season in succession since topping the regular-season table in 2020/21 and then imploding in the semi-finals after leading Harlequins 28-0.

Alleged dressing room rumblings are, according to Goode, now taking their toll, a situation reflected in how Genge didn’t perform last weekend for Bristol on his first return to Welford Road since skippering Leicester to Premiership glory last June at Twickenham. “We need to talk about Genge,” began Goode on the latest episode of the show he co-hosts with Jim Hamilton, a former Leicester teammate. “I watched him thinking this will be juicy.

“Leicester’s ex-captain coming back, he is a Bristol boy, first time back at Welford Road and I have been there, I played at Leicester for 10 years and the first time I ever came back to Welford Road as an away player at the end of my 10-year tenure I got sent off because I booted Tom Croft in the face – the emotions get hold of you.

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“So, Ellis Genge is coming on and I’m thinking he is going to do something. He is going to get angry; he is going to be aggressive at the breakdown, he is going to try and dominate the scrum. He got hosed at scrum time because as soon as he came on, Richard Wigglesworth brought Dan Cole on. Cole absolutely shoved his [Genge’s] head up his own arse. Genge looked like he wasn’t interested. He was basically patting all the Leicester lads on the back as if he was still a Leicester player but in a Bristol jersey.

“The only time he got angry at the end of the game was when Leicester scored a try right at the death and James Cronin is giving him some stick and then they start headbutting and I think there were fingers around the eye area and he got a bit angry towards the end but really surprised. It was like he wasn’t bothered – and I think that is the same for a few of the Bristol boys.

“I think there is a big issue there at Bristol around the empathy and the team spirit within the squad and there is some sort of breakdown there. Yes, they have won a few games recently, but we have said it for a while, there is something not right there, and the fact that Pat Lam is on a seven-year contract – it’s only down to six years now – I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a big change.

“Just rumblings and there are a lot of players leaving. Bristol have spent all this cash, unbelievable squad, but the hangover of losing that semi a few years ago when they were top of the league, got turned over by Quins when they were 28-nil up or something, they haven’t recovered from that. There is a bit of ill-feeling in the squad for various different reasons and if you are Steve Lansdown putting loads of cash in and now you are losing (Semi) Radradra, (Charles) Piutau, there is a lot of other players leaving as well, I don’t know. Big questions.”

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Hamilton added: “When you look at Bristol, they are now seventh, they should be a top-four side with the players that they have got. You have got Ellis Genge, England captain/vice-captain. You have got Semi Radradra, one of the best players in the league albeit he was injured at the beginning of the season.

“You have got Charles Piutau, a million-pound player. Kyle Sinckler at tighthead, you’ve got (Steven) Lautua in the back row as well just to name a few and you’re thinking they are not going to make the top four at the end of the Premiership season. They have underachieved this year and obviously last year considering they were semi-finalists before that.”

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