Ellis Genge has claimed that Eddie Jones and some ethnic England players – including himself – were subjected to racial abuse during their 2018 trip to South Africa. Jones’ side played a three-Test series two years ago in Johannesburg, Bloemfontein and Cape Town and while the Leicester prop didn’t play in those matches, he revealed there was an unsavoury moment after one of the games.
Speaking on 5 Live Breakfast on Tuesday, Genge explained that racism is something he tries to shield himself from but despite this cautious approach, there are still occasions when he is left vulnerable to verbal abuse.
“I don’t think BBC 5 Live needs those type of profanities on their radio at five-to-eight in the morning so I won’t go into too much stuff but it was quite tough in terms of a quite heavily white-dominated area growing up,” he said, initially recalling what it was like being reared in Bristol.
“I still get that [racist abuse] now. You try and segregate yourself from all those people who are sort of naive or ignorant enough to be racist, you try and stay away from it as much as you can, but you can’t shield yourself from everyone’s thoughts.
“I’m more referring when you go out in town after games and stuff. When we went on the South African tour in 2018 I remember after a game we were walking through one of the tunnels and they started hurling racist abuse at myself and a few of the other ethnic boys and Eddie himself.
“It is still very rife, especially in sport. Look, you can’t control that yourself, you just sort of need to put the message out there. Like Raheem Sterling said, if you have got a platform you can use it. It’s something that needs to be stamped out.”
Genge, who has spoken to RugbyPass before about the need for rugby to expand its horizons and shake off its reputation as a posh white man’s sport, added that he would love to see more black coaches and players involved in rugby.
“Yeah, I’d like to see that. The issue in rugby is it has been a white man’s game for a number of years. There’s not really many black coaches or ethnic coaches, especially here in England.
“The only one I am aware of – and I actually worked under him – was Paul Hull at Bristol who played for Bristol himself. But other than that it’s dominated by white males, which is obviously not a problem but that is just the foundation the game was built on.
'It's rugby's biggest downfall' – Ellis Genge believes rugby can learn from football https://t.co/hzZKWgwlkX
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) June 3, 2019
“I would love to see black coaches thriving in this game. Me and Maro (Itoje) have spoken about it before. But there is just not hunger out there for it at the moment. Football pays a lot better so all the kids I know who are young in poverty, they all want to be footballers because they are icons.
“That is the way they are presented commercially, all the footballers are icons. You want to be Raheem Sterling. Growing up I wanted to be a footballer because that is the way they are presented.
“I don’t think people are commercialised, especially the black and African boys in rugby or women to be icons, we are not presented like that. I can understand why the youth and the poverty today don’t want to be rugby players because it is not the way we are presented, we’re sort of put on this posh pedestal and it’s slowly breaking the mould.”
Genge made headlines recently due to the formation of a breakaway players’ union, the Rugby Players Epoch (RPE), following the decision by Gallagher Premiership clubs to implement a 25 per cent pay cut.
Amid the revelations that the clubs have now voted to reduce the tournament salary cap and halve the number of marquee players whose salaries can sit outside the cap, Genge added; “Listen, I don’t want to get myself in trouble which I’m quite good at, to be honest. I’ll try and leave that as brief as I can.
“Obviously no one wants a pay cut and in light of everything that has happened I understand there needs to be cuts made, but if you look at the books and the money that rugby has made, especially off the back of the players with the product, I don’t think these cuts, 25 per cent across the board for everyone, are necessary. That’s my opinion.
A document from the Rugby Players Epoch (RPE) outlining what they can offer players has shed new light on the breakaway players' union. https://t.co/ZIwARROvLK
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) June 6, 2020
“I believe these are still in negotiation,” he continued amid claims these temporary cuts will now be made permanent. “I don’t want to weaken all the boys by sitting here and bagging the PRL for negotiating because I’m sure they will probably spite us for that.
“But rugby has grown so much. I think it is something like since 2009 the fanbase has gone up by a ridiculous amount, millions and millions. You just had the World Cup in Japan, which was great for everyone and England got to the final for the first time since I don’t know when.”
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