Ellis Genge: Adopted Leicester Tiger set to complete his Welford Road journey

·6-min read
 Credit: PA Images
Credit: PA Images

Planet Rugby writer James While spoke to England and Leicester Tigers front-row Ellis Genge about his love for the East Midlands outfit, ahead of his return to his hometown club Bristol Bears, and Saturday’s Premiership semi-final against Northampton Saints.

Authenticity

Ellis Genge is one of the most authentic men in rugby.

Spend a moment in his time and you’ll get brutal honesty, undying passion and direct answers that will alleviate any wondering that you may have had.

His tenure at Welford Road is almost complete after a seven-year journey that’s seen him transform from a barrelling number eight to one of the world’s finest looseheads, a baby rhino that carries like a battleship, scrummages like a tractor and leads with that authenticity that characterises his person.

When Leicester Tigers meet Northampton Saints in the Premiership semi-final on Saturday, it will be the last time Genge runs out in front of his beloved Welford Road crowd and he understands that it will be an emotional experience.

“It’s a bit daunting, isn’t it?” he admitted.

“For the most part I’ve had a great relationship with the fans – they’re a great set of supporters. We obviously went through that lean patch in 2017/18 where the relationship wasn’t that great as we weren’t performing and they (fairly) put us under a lot of heat.

“But now I feel we’ve come out on the other side and the stadium is really bouncing again and you can really feel that player/fan bond as you walk round. It’s quite personal – you can hear them shouting your name, giving players standing ovations as they come off the pitch and so on.

“Even compared to places I’ve played in internationally Welford Road is up there – it’s a really special place.”

With that one appearance for Leicester at their home ground left, the England loosehead is keen to take the moment in, to remember the things that makes Leicester such a special club and confesses it’s something he’s been playing in his mind over the last few days.

“I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t thought about it,” said Genge.

“In fact, I’m still visualising it, thinking about what I want to make it look like and how I want it to feel, regardless of who we are playing. I was pretty disappointed to miss out on the East Midlands derby earlier this year as I was away with England and that really hurt me, so I’m happy I have the opportunity to do so on Saturday.

“In terms of myself, I just want to completely empty the tank for the supporters who have been there throughout.

“Not coming from Leicester, it took me a bit of time to understand the importance of the fixture. However, when I saw how much it meant to others like Matt Smith, who’d be in tears, and Harry Thacker, how much they loved it, it showed that the East Mids was right up there.

“In terms of playing on that emotion of the derby as a captain, it’s a half and half thing. You have to beat the drum when the time’s right but you need also to get your detail right in the early part of the week. If you go nuts and start spitting flames then you’re not going to learn much. You have to wait to Thursday, Friday and Saturday for giving the Sunday speeches, but there’s a time and a place for them and they’ll definitely come!” he quipped.

Familiar territory

Leicester Tigers are no strangers to semi-finals. Earlier this year, they suffered an ignominious defeat at home, where 25 minutes of opening brilliance from Leinster booted them out of the EPCR Champions Cup. Post-match, Genge, leaking blood, sweat and tears onto the press room floor, delivered one of the most honest and authentic interviews witnessed in many years to the assembled journalists, citing a slow start and set-piece/breakdown struggles as areas he was particularly unhappy with.

He admits that the memory of the things that went wrong in those key opening moments of that match has stayed with both him and the Tigers forwards.

“Yeah, we made a pact as forwards that from that moment on, we were always going to come out of the blocks first and that’s exactly what we plan to do this time around,” revealed Genge.

“We know Saints play this expansive form of rugby, but sometimes we’ve noticed that when teams play us, they’ll try to adapt to what we do. We feel they may place a greater emphasis on a kicking game and it’ll be very interesting to see how they approach this. They’ve come into this game on the upslope and with Saints you never know if they’ll run it from their own five metres or do a ‘switcheroo’ and boot the leather off it and that means we have to prep accordingly.

“Leinster is ingrained on this group of players as a team, and I can assure you that we’ll never come out cold like that again.

“Look, the pride never disappears, whether you spend your season on top of the league or not. When we were 11th in the Premierships I still ran out with pride. When you’ve been at the depths that we were at and then you see the resurgence we’ve enjoyed as a team, that’s when you have real personal pride in your contribution.

“What I’m trying to say is we have taken pride in the whole process, wherever we were in the league and that’s exactly why we’ve gotten to where we are now otherwise, without that pride, it wouldn’t have happened. If you have no pride when you’re 11th, then it means you don’t care, it’s that simple.

“There’s some great people, some that want to remain unsung heroes, and who I am really going to miss dearly – the key for me now is to enjoy however many days I have left with them.”

There’s no doubt Genge will be equally missed by all at Welford Road. We thank him for his time.

READ MORE: Premiership: ‘The only week that matters is the one you’re in’ says Leicester Tigers boss Steve Borthwick

The article Ellis Genge: Adopted Leicester Tiger set to complete his Welford Road journey appeared first on Planetrugby.com.

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