Ellis Genge ready for test of England’s progress
Ellis Genge views the final two rounds of the Guinness Six Nations as the ultimate barometer of the advances made so far during Steve Borthwick’s England rebuild.
England still have a chance of claiming the title but to stay in the hunt they must topple the world’s top two ranked sides, beginning with France at Twickenham on Saturday before facing Ireland in Dublin a week later.
The toughest assignment in the sport is being tackled while Borthwick continues to repair the damage inflicted during the final year of the Eddie Jones era.
A promising start saw a narrow defeat by Scotland followed by conclusive wins against Italy and Wales, but Genge knows the level of competition is about to shoot up.
“We have the second and first best teams and it goes in order as well,” the Bristol prop said.
“If you beat the second best, you’re probably licking your lips to get stuck into the number one side. It’s a great opportunity to see where we’re at.
“The rankings say we are sixth in the world. We’re going through a rebuild. We’re trying to build some foundations for what’s to come.
“We’ve actually been quite steady. It was obviously gutting to lose to Scotland in the first game and have the opportunity to win a Grand Slam taken away from us, but then you have to re-evaluate and find new goals.
“There was an opportunity to build on the first game and then you see where you are at in the last. It’s all about stepping forward.
“It might sound cringey but it’s reality, it’s where you’re at when you’ve not necessarily hit rock bottom but when you’re not performing as well as you can.
“You want answers, you want to know why, you’re trying so hard and suddenly you start to see a slight change in behaviours and performance and outcome. That’s what we’re getting after.”
France are odds-on favourites to clinch their first Six Nations win at Twickenham since 2005, but Genge is wary of tapping into the nothing-to-lose mindset against the Grand Slam champions.
“Sometimes the free swing isn’t the best way to go. Sometimes that underdog psychology can inflate teams,” he said.
France have conquered every obstacle in their way over the past three years...
... except one: Twickenham 🏟#AwakenAnticipation | #ENGvFRA
— Guinness Six Nations (@SixNationsRugby) March 8, 2023
“I’ve had it a fair bit in my rugby career as a whole – that underdog psychology, being up and down in the rankings and whatever at club level, then it’s reciprocated at international level as well.
“It’s nothing new to me and I think the boys are in a good spot with that sort of stuff as well. Everyone understands where we’re at.
“I don’t think France would ever go into a game thinking England are crap, I’d like to think that anyway. I think we’ve got a bit of respect in that sense.
“Likewise, we’d never go into a game thinking the other team was a pushover. There are so many shock results lately, in every line of sport, not just rugby. You can’t take anything for granted.
“France are a brilliant side, momentum is key for them. I guess they’ll be scratching their heads thinking how are we going to stop them.”