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'Interesting isolation with him and Marler if they were together'

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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Eddie Jones has reacted to the Friday morning revelation that Ellis Genge has become the second England loosehead inside a week to test positive for Covid, the vice-captain getting his unfortunate result four days after it emerged on Monday that Joe Marler had tested positive and was ruled out of selection.

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Genge had started last weekend’s Autumn Nations Series opener versus Tonga, with Marler covering him from the bench in the 69-3 win. However, neither of those players will now feature against the Wallabies in the second match of the three-game November programme. 

With Marler ruled out on Monday, England decided to call up Bevan Rodd, an uncapped 21-year-old from Sale, following training on Tuesday and he went on to be named on the bench on Thursday behind Genge after leapfrogging the one-cap Trevor Davison in the selection pecking order. 

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That was quite an achievement but the inclusion of Rodd became an even more dramatic feat when he learned on Friday morning that he was now in the starting team – with Davison providing bench cover – after Genge tested positive for the virus. 

This finding has now ended Genge’s series as he must isolate for ten days and will miss the concluding game versus the Springboks on Saturday week. Asked how the England squad had taken the news about Genge, Jones said: “We just treat it [Covid disruption] as normal now. Every day is an adventure and we are on a bit of a rollercoaster at the moment. 

“Covid keeps coming and we just have to get on with it. It’s a great opportunity for a young guy like Bevan Rodd to play his first Test at Twickenham against one of our arch enemies Australia. We have got the greatest confidence in him, and Trevor has been in our squad since summer now and deserves the opportunity off the bench. While we are disappointed for Ellis, because he is such an important part of our team, it’s a great opportunity for the team to step up and for those two young players to step up. 

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“Ellis is not sick at all, which is the frustrating thing for him… He is enormously disappointed. He is vice-captain of this team. He loves playing against Australia, he loves the challenge of playing at Twickenham but he will rebound. It will be an interesting isolation with him and Marler together if they were together. Fortunately, they are not because we might only end up with one coming out,” continued Jones. During the recent Lions tour, isolated players were able to mix amongst themselves away from the rest of the squad.

“Everyone has mixed emotions. I was watching the players come through this morning. Some are disappointed for Ellis, others are angry, others just want to get on with it. We just had a short team meeting this morning, Owen (Farrell) and the senior players spoke really well, we got everyone back on the same page and we just got on with it.”

With Genge testing positive, additional testing was ordered for the rest of the England squad. “We have had no other positive test results and we have undergone an additional round of lateral flow testing and PCR testing this morning [Friday],” explained an RFU spokesperson. 

“No positive lateral flow test for any players or staff this morning. We will expect the results of today’s PCR testing either later tonight or early tomorrow morning depending on what time they come back from the lab to us.”

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While it looks like a crisis that England have lost two players to Covid in the space of a few November days, Jones was adamant that his camp has done well over the course of the pandemic to restrict the virus. “It [Covid] is a fact of life.

“You have just got to watch the BBC news every morning and see the number of cases every day in the UK. It’s out there. We are doing everything we can in the team to safeguard against it and trying to apply some common sense. Since Covid, we have had two positive cases in nearly two years now so our strike rate is pretty good.

“I would say there is a law of averages here. If we were to sit down 20 months after the Covid-19 pandemic and say we had just two positive cases I think we would be pretty rapt with that result. I just think there is a lot more out there. 

“You hear a lot more people with Covid now than I heard during the height of the pandemic, the number of people being infected by it. We’re keeping very strict regulations about what we do and we are pleased with the discipline of the players. It is just one of these unfortunate consequences of a pandemic.”  

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