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'Disgusting': Ellis Genge hits back over 'gouge' allegation

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

Leicester skipper Ellis Genge has hit out at claims that he tried to gouge Wasps’ Francois Hougaard during last Sunday’s Gallagher Premiership match at Coventry. The loosehead was yellow-carded shortly before half-time and the incident became subject to much debate, generating fears that a citing and subsequent suspension could threaten the player’s availability for the start of the upcoming Six Nations with England. 

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No disciplinary action has materialised, leaving Genge free to continue captaining Leicester in the run-up to England’s February 5 trip to Scotland. He admitted on Tuesday, 48 hours after his sin-binning, that he had apologised to Leicester boss Steve Borthwick and his teammates but he insisted he never feared getting cited and he went on to hit out at the online furore over his actions.   

For whatever reason, the behaviour of Genge appears to attract regular criticism. However, appearing at the virtually held Leicester media briefing ahead of next Saturday’s Champions Cup trip to Connacht, the soon-to-be 27-year-old prop defiantly defended himself and claimed his bad-boy reputation was unwarranted.   

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“Look, for some reason, I have got this weird perception that I have got bad discipline and stuff, I get peppered online but it goes in one ear and you the other, so yeah I feel like I probably let myself down (with the yellow card). 

“I am usually the one getting the reaction as opposed to giving the reaction so it was a learning for me being on the other side of the coin where I have lost my head in a split second

“I have seen a lot of people saying that I tried to gouge him, that is absolutely ridiculous. I would never even dream of something like that, that is disgusting. But yeah, I lost my head, pushed him in the face a little bit. I’ll learn from it and have said so to the boys and I said sorry to Steve. Of course, I was disappointed,” he said, adding: “I didn’t think I would be cited, no.”

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Genge’s sin-binning was one of two yellow cards suffered by Leicester in a match that heralded the first defeat in 16 matches this season for the Tigers. “Of course, it potentially cost us the game being 14 men down for that amount of time. I think mine’s an isolated incident of me losing my head for a split second off the back of someone doing something to me whereas Tommy’s [Reffell] was working his bollocks off to get back and make a try-saving tackle so there’s a big difference between the two.

“I have apologised to the boys for letting them down… It’s something I can’t promise I won’t do again but it’s one of those, you lose your head in the heat of the moment. I haven’t got a bad discipline record. I have never been red-carded in a professional game and I have got about four yellows in my professional career.

“I love it,” added Genge when asked about how proud he was to be the Leicester captain this season. “Imagine being at war and all your troops are ready to die because that is what our pack is about, being at the front of that leading them in. I love it. I don’t always get it right and the boys know that, Steve knows that and everyone else… but it’s just so easy to lead boys who are that willing.”

Leicester boss Borthwick initially worked as an England assistant with Genge before taking over at the Premiership club in July 2020 and he has nothing but the utmost respect for the development of a player who last month confirmed he had signed for his hometown Bristol for next season.

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“He is a very powerful leader. The first thing he does is he sets an example, he trains so hard during the week in the gym, in the scrum sessions, whatever skill sessions and secondly is how brilliant he is at to be able to connect people.

“Whether you are an 18-year-old coming out of the academy to someone with 100-plus caps he can connect to everybody and chat and bring everybody around the table together, and then thirdly he is playing really well. So you have got someone who works hard, is brilliant with people and then is playing really well, he is an incredibly powerful leader. 

“I know the matter you refer to on Sunday [the yellow card] and that has been dealt with but from my point of view, he is terrific. He speaks calmly when asked a question, he is able to give clear instructions on what needs to be done. He has grown over the years I have known him to be a top-class international Test player now.” 

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RUGBYPASS+ The three fixable factors behind Eddie Jones' England stagnation The three fixable factors behind Eddie Jones' England stagnation
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