Ellis Genge talent-spotter backs prop to ‘thrive’ as England captain in latest chapter on rise to the top

Ellis Genge talent-spotter backs prop to ‘thrive’ as England captain in latest chapter on rise to the top

The man who discovered Ellis Genge has backed the Bristol star to flourish if handed the England captaincy this autumn.

Former Leicester Tigers skipper Genge will be among the front-runners to lead England in Sunday’s Autumn Nations Series opener against Argentina should Owen Farrell miss out through injury.

Genge led Leicester to their first Gallagher Premiership title in nine years with June’s 15-12 win over Saracens, before heading back to home club Bristol in the summer.

Now the 27-year-old prop could be primed for his biggest captaincy job yet, should boss Eddie Jones install him to lead England for the first time.

Alan Martinovic launched the careers of scores of club and Test stars, in trophy-laden roles at first Bristol’s Collegiate School then Gloucestershire’s Hartpury College.

The acclaimed youth coach made Genge his Under-18s captain at Hartpury, with current Gloucester skipper Lewis Ludlow the vice-captain of that same side.

Ellis Genge could lead England against Argentina if Owen Farrell is not ready to return (Getty Images)
Ellis Genge could lead England against Argentina if Owen Farrell is not ready to return (Getty Images)

Back then there were a few “raised eyebrows” at a leadership role for a raw ball-carrying forward from a Bristol council estate. Now no one would bat an eyelid should Jones pick the powerhouse prop to join England’s exclusive captaincy club.

“Ellis would excel at the job and thrive in it,” Martinovic told Standard Sport. “Knowing him as I do, I think it would be a job he would relish.

“No one would turn down the offer of England captain, but for some, you do wonder if it’s a burden they don’t really need.

“Ellis thrives on responsibility and leadership. He has matured fantastically as a person and a leader, developing his captaincy style from a follow-me approach to speaking so well and driving standards, on and off the field.

“When I made him captain at Hartpury there were one or two raised eyebrows. But I just felt at the time that Ellis needed that responsibility.

“It is a fantastic achievement to have gone from there to driving the standards at both club and country in the way he does by all accounts. It’s incredible for him to reach the pinnacle of the game.”

Genge has matured fantastically as a person and a leader, developing his captaincy style and driving standards

Flanker Courtney Lawes will definitely miss England’s first autumn outing at Twickenham this weekend, owing to continued concussion concerns.

Fly-half Farrell could yet complete his own head injury return-to-play protocols in time to face the Pumas, but if not, Genge could step into the captaincy breach.

Genge’s rise from Bristol’s hard-knocks Knowle West estate to rugby stardom is a tome now well-thumbed, but Martinovic is keen to add another chapter.

If Genge has sought to keep potential rogue influences at bay throughout his career, Martinovic revealed his family’s vital help.

“A lot of people talk about Ellis’ background, but there are very, very good aspects there, especially his family,” said Martinovic. “His mum and dad are incredibly supportive, and always have been; they have followed him everywhere.

“Back in his Hartpury days, every conversation I had with his mum, she was just always determined to do the absolute best for him however she could.

“There were people in his peer group in Bristol who were not the best influence, but his family realised it and took action rather than leaving him to his own devices.

Alan Martinovic played a crucial role in the development of England’s influential prop (Getty Images)
Alan Martinovic played a crucial role in the development of England’s influential prop (Getty Images)

“I’m sure he would admit himself he was a bit of a rough diamond back in the early days, but I really enjoyed working with him, being part of his development.

“Watching him play was a real privilege, and there’s no doubt he had something that set him apart from other players. If you're going into battle he’s certainly something you’d want to follow.

“He still frightens people now on a rugby field, grown men and fellow professionals. So you can imagine what that was like against 15 or 16-year-olds.

“I saw him a few times before taking him to Hartpury, certainly I remember one game for Bristol Schools. The non-talent elements you look for, courage, work-rate, resilience, he had all of that.

“If a young player has all of that and also a 10 out of 10 attribute too, then they can be special. And obviously his 10 out of 10 was his ball carrying.”