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How 'underrated knowledge' has accelerated the maturity of Genge

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

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Joe Marler has paid tribute to positional rival Ellis Genge, who has burst from the pack to make the England No1 jersey his own in recent times. The 27-year-old only won nine of his 28 caps prior to last July’s Summer Series as a starter. However, he has been the first-choice loosehead since then, starting in all six of the Test games he has been available for and enjoying an unprecedented run of selection in the 2022 Guinness Six Nations. 

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Previous championship campaigns had seen Genge only play bit-part roles for England as Mako Vunipola was generally the favoured starting loosehead. Across the 2019, 2020 and 2021 Six Nations tournaments, the Leicester front-rower started on just two occasions while also making a dozen appearances from the bench. 

However, he is now Eddie Jones’ preferred starting loosehead and only for illness ruling him out of the November matches against Australia and South Africa, he would be heading into this Saturday’s Six Nations clash against Ireland having been the starting No1 in all eight of England’s last matches. 

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The acceleration of Genge up the pecking order has impressed Marler, who has played back-up to him in the three February games where the results have left England sitting in third place in the Six Nations and needing to beat Ireland to keep alive their title ambitions through to the final round March 19 game away to France.  

“His maturity has accelerated and the leader that he has become in the group, the respect that he has got off the whole group is huge,” explained Marler when asked by RugbyPass about his England rival Genge. “His knowledge is underrated. I think a lot of people just see him at this aggressive ball carrier who is just in your face but his actual knowledge of the game is second to none and he is really starting to come of age in the sense of the set-piece work. 

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“Still learning, as a lot of young boys are still learning, but he is winning more of those battles than he was before. He is also adding that abrasive carrying that he can do week in week out in the Prem that he not necessarily has been able to do (with England) because he has been doing it off the bench in bit-parts previously but now he is starting the games and is showing his qualities there. He has been massive for us and long may it continue.”

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Marler quipped on Tuesday that England training at Pennyhill that morning had been tasty, the prop jesting with a smile that there had been an altercation with Genge. “He punched me four times in today’s session so that is up to him, if he wants to behave like that, that is cool. I will get him back later.”

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