Ellis Genge, the rough diamond from a tough working-class neighbourhood in Bristol, has found support for his recent behaviour from an unexpected source – much-respected referee Nigel Owens. 

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The England prop earned plaudits for his on-field try-scoring effort in last weekend’s Calcutta Cup win over Scotland, but this was followed by criticism for a post-match TV interview where he drank beer on camera and called the media ‘sausages’ for their mostly negative reaction to the previous week’s defeat to France. 

Genge’s critics felt his response was a prime example of old-fashioned rugby etiquette being eroded, but Owens has used his weekly walesonline.co.uk column to come to the defence of the Leicester forward. 

“I know Ellis Genge pretty well as a player as I’ve reffed him many times,” said Owens, who was in Paris last weekend for the France versus Italy Guinness Six Nations match. 

“He always comes up after the game and he sent me a message after the France game saying, “Well done on a great game and a great career”. I have a lot of respect for him.

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“He plays with his heart on his sleeve and that’s good to see. That’s what we want from our players. I always enjoy reffing him although he sometimes brings his own challenges to you as a referee.

“Looking at his interview, to me that is him. I don’t know him well but to me that was him, he wasn’t trying to be anybody else.

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“Sometimes I watch games and, I’m not being big-headed, but I see referees trying to be me and smiling and joking with the players, and I think don’t try to be somebody you’re not, just be yourself and be natural.

“For me, Ellis Genge was being himself and that’s what we want in players and people is it not? You don’t want players to be somebody they’re not. I enjoyed his interview and other players may not have had a drink but for me, there was nothing wrong in him having one.

“Sometimes after the match, I am invited to the players’ dressing room and after a hard 80 minutes on the field, most of them will have a beer in their hands and as referees and officials we share a drink with each other in the changing room after the game too and that is rugby.

“To me, Ellis Genge was just doing an interview having a beer as if he was in the changing rooms. To me that him just being himself.

“What you see is what you get and that is more important to me rather than somebody pretending to be somebody they’re not. He’s a very good player and a good lad who I have a lot of respect for.”

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