Ellis Genge warns former team-mates ‘gloves are off’ ahead of Argentina clash

England prop Ellis Genge has warned Argentina “the gloves are off” when he places his admiration for the Pumas on ice for Sunday’s collision at Twickenham.

Genge played alongside Tomas Lavanini, Julian Montoya and Matias Moroni when at Leicester, describing the trio who start for the tourists as “heroes” because of their no nonsense approach to the game.

But for 80 minutes the hard-running Bristol prop is ready to transform from friend to enemy when the Autumn Nations Series launches with a dress rehearsal for the rivals’ pool opener at next year’s World Cup.

Ellis Genge
Ellis Genge celebrates a try from Julian Montoya while the pair were team-mates at Leicester (Tim Goode/PA)

“They’re heroes, honestly. Bar some of the English boys they’re probably some of the best I’ve got on with people,” Genge said.

“I just think they’re so honest and so true, straight up and down, no ambiguity about where you stand.

“(Argentina captain) Julian Montoya has been one of the best players in the world this year and he’s leading his country out at Twickenham against current and former team-mates.

“Me and him always spoke about the prospect of playing against each other, saying that we wouldn’t want to do it, and here we are.

“He opened my eyes up to how effective hookers can be within the scrum. When they say hookers are the heart of the scrum and lead it, he really embodied that.

“He’s a master of his art and he’s class around the park as well. For me, he’s a world player of the year nominee.

Argentina captain Julian Montoya
Ellis Genge rates Argentina captain Julian Montoya (pictured) highly (Adam Davy/PA)

“I’m going to treasure every moment of playing against the three of them. I have huge respect for all three of them but at the same time, the gloves are off when it comes to playing.”

Genge is expecting Argentina to “bang on the front door” in wet conditions in the first of four Tests at Twickenham this month, but experience tells him England might also be targeted with some on-field chat.

“The Pumas are hugely emotional, I’ve seen that at club level. Their English is absolutely brilliant as well,” he said.

“Whether or not there is a crossover with the language barrier, they’ve said some fruity things to me in the past on the pitch.

“But as someone who is quite emotionally-fuelled myself, I love it. I love being around them, I love playing with them and it’s going to be interesting playing against them now that I know them.”

Excitement is building over the return of the destructive Manu Tuilagi at outside centre following a year out of the Test arena because of hamstring and knee injuries.

They were the latest setbacks in a career that has been blighted by lengthy spells in the treatment room and the hope is that the 31-year-old remains fit between now and the World Cup.

Genge sees the return of his former Leicester team-mate as a poignant moment.

“I’m very, very close with Manu and have known him the best part of seven years now,” he said.

England v Australia – 2019 Rugby World Cup – Quarter Final – Oita Stadium
Ellis Genge (right) is delighted to have Manu Tuilagi (centre) back in the England fold (Ashley Western/PA)

“I was actually going to mention it to him tomorrow (Sunday), just that he’s been through a lot over the past few years. What people don’t see is that he’s such a great professional.

“Obviously he was a bit of a party animal in his early years but definitely over the past four years, that mindset has shifted. He looks after himself so well, he’s so polite and he loves his chess.

“What people don’t see, and the real beauty of Manu, is that he’s a great person. I’m just excited for him to get the opportunity to play again because I know that’s all he wants to do.

“He is the ultimate team man, he’d do anything for you if you ask nicely. He’s a great spirit to have in the team.

“He’s just a nice bloke. He makes coffees for people. The bus was leaving yesterday and he was insistent on making me a brew. He’d rather miss the bus and make a coffee than me go without.”