England test prop Ellis Genge has hit out at English rugby’s “private school mould,” stating that it is stopping the sport from progressing.
“It’s something I want to speak about because my whole career I’ve felt like I can’t express my opinion,” he said in an interview with the Daily Mail.
“I feel like, in rugby, people aren’t allowed to be themselves. They’re so false and that stops our sport from growing. It breaks me.”
Genge was never an age group representative, something he puts down to other people’s perception of him.
“When I was 16, 17, 18, I never made any of the age-group teams,” the 23-year-old said. “I feel that’s because my face didn’t fit.”
“I’m not white middle class… I’m working class. I don’t want to put it down to race — I don’t think it’s about that — but I’ll put it down to culture. The way people are raised and brought up. There’s that private school mould.”
The ‘private school mould’ is what Genge believes is slowing the progress of rugby in England.
“It’s stopping the game from progressing and it’s painful. I have friends working on scaffolding sites back home who are quicker than Jonny May. That’s where football and those other sports have cracked it. Is rugby really grass-roots?
“When I was younger, I never felt comfortable sitting in the clubhouse having my chips and sausage because I just felt everyone was looking at me thinking: ‘Who the f**k is this’?
“Because of the way I look, the way I act, where I’m from, I get looked at differently to someone white and privately educated. What about attitudes towards people from working-class backgrounds?
“More people need to speak up. If we’re building from the bottom up then something needs to be done.”
Genge has been capped for England five times since his debut in 2016, earning his first call-up after his first Premiership start with Leicester.
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