'I definitely see him a lot more in that England jersey': What the Leicester dressing room thinks of new Test cap George Martin
Leicester back row Hanro Liebenberg has hailed the impact teenager George Martin has been making at Leicester since he returned to the club following his England Test level debut last month. The 19-year-old was capped by Eddie Jones in the England loss to Ireland in Dublin on March 20.
Martin returned to the Leicester ranks with a bench appearance in the March 28 Gallagher Premiership win over Newcastle – just his seventh-ever game for his club in the league. He then followed it with a dominant start in the Challenge Cup round of 16 success versus Connacht, the blindside making 43 metres off a dozen carries and putting in a chart-topping 24 tackles.
Then in the quarter-final win over Falcons, he made a team chart-topping 16 tackles along with a starting pack high of eleven metres off nine carries. Liebenberg reclaimed the No6 jersey for last weekend’s Gallagher Premiership defeat to Northampton, switching in from the No8 berth he occupied in the European quarter-final success over Newcastle where he got to see at close quarters the growing value that Martin and his fellow rookie, blindside Tommy Reffell.
Asked which young players have most caught the eye in the recent Leicester revival, Liebenberg said: “I would definitely say George Martin and Tommy Reffell, especially because they are back rows. Two quality players and they are still only scratching the surface. They have got so much potential in them and I can’t wait to see them more out in the field.
“For me, George is just a brilliant ball carrier, solid on defence. That is why he has been called up to the England camp as well. He only got a few minutes in his first game but I definitely see him a lot more in that England jersey.”
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It was summer 2019 when Liebenberg first arrived in the doors at Welford Road from the Bulls. Similar to Leicester, his old team in Pretoria has been enduring a slump following past glories. Two years later the Bulls are now back winning trophies under Jake White and the same could soon be said for Leicester now that their new boss Steve Borthwick has them poised just 180 minutes away from a potential European trophy, starting with Friday’s semi-final at home to Ulster.
“They [Bulls] recently got in a new coach as well, recruited a few players so they are definitely building something quite similar to us here. I guess there is a lot of clubs that go through these phases, the ups and the downs, and it’s just how quickly you can get from those downs and get back on top again.
“Nothing has changed at all (for me at Leicester). It’s still probably one of my best decisions to come here. These last few months confirmed the point why I came here, just the way we go about the way we are training, the way the guys are starting to believe in each other, the way we are playing. I still think there is a lot more in us but I’m so excited for what the rest of the season and next season holds. The guys that we have and the management that we have we can really go and show something.
“It [attitude] has changed dramatically. We spoke about it after the game last weekend against Saints (an 18-23 defeat). Let’s say nine months ago we would sit back in the changing room after a loss and not really be disappointed or we felt a bit sorry for ourselves.
“Now we have got that belief and we know there is much more left in us, that that is not our standard, that we left a few opportunities go the last few weekends. We just know there is so much more in us as a team,” he said, adding that he has his own priority in the bigger Leicester picture.
“That is one of my key work-ons, to get the ball in my hands. Sometimes I struggle with it just the way the game goes, just the way we play against certain teams, but that is definitely one of my work-ons. Overall the management is just so professional in what they do. They are always trying to bring out the best in the players and see what works best for us to go into a game and what gives us confidence.”
"He [Henson] then stood up and said he would knock me out and said your missus wants to get with me"
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