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New England skipper Ellis Genge on 'brutal reality' of record loss

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Craig Mercer/MB Media/Getty Images)

First-time England skipper Ellis Genge has steered clear of publicly firing a verbal rocket at his underperforming team following their harrowing 53-10 hammering by France. The English had arrived into round four of the Guinness Six Nations still in the title hunt after recent wins over Italy and Wales.

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However, their ambitions of remaining alive in the race for championship silverware were detonated by an explosive seven-try French performance which only took 106 seconds to produce a memorable opening score.

The shambolic effort left the crestfallen Genge and England head coach Steve Borthwick sifting through the debris at a sombre Saturday evening media debrief at the same English Rugby HQ top table where only nine months ago the pair were overjoyed in the aftermath of leading Leicester to a first Premiership title since 2013.

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That day, their Tigers had fought tooth and nail to stay in the fight against the fancied Saracens. Here, their England team criminally surrendered the breakdown and collision zone and the wounds inflicted were brutal.

Apart from the early second-half try from Freddie Steward that reduced the leeway to 10-27, England conjured little or no resistance and were overrun coming down the finishing straight, the French making a nonsense of the greasy conditions with some brilliantly potent handling.

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The English waving of the white flag should have negatively stirred the emotions but Genge – at least publicly – insisted he was keeping the peace and not getting too emotional about the embarrassing England thumping. “I don’t think there is any point in shouting and bawling and pointing the finger at people,” he claimed in the aftermath of a fixture that had a number of England fans streaming towards the exits before the final whistle.

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“You lose as a team; it is a collective performance. It doesn’t matter what one individual is doing at any one point in time, it is about winning together and losing together and ultimately fighting for each other and showing his much it matters and at times today we lacked that.

“That is the brutal reality of it, that’s tier-one rugby, you get punished harshly and I don’t think anyone is under any illusions about anything different in that changing room at the moment.”

England had been bullied in the opening period. However, Genge insisted that belief within the team was still strong at the break when they talked about how they would try and bounce back from the 3-27 half-time deficit.

“Look, even when we were going in 20 points down at half-time, the message was always that we believe and the boys genuinely did believe that. But we lost the contact area and at Test level, if you lose the contact area and momentum, it’s a snowball effect. We started chasing our tail and struggled to get a foothold back in the game.

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“But I have been in this situation numerous times before at club level, with international. We have been through some rough spells and everyone writes us off and brilliant – we are going to graft, we are going to work as hard as we can, and we will see where we come out… we will see where we are in six months (at the World Cup) but what we want to do is just get better next week (against Ireland).”

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