England’s Ellis Genge gives Japan rough lesson in art of scrummaging | Andy Bull

The Bristol strongman was at the heart of everything his side did and showed why Eddie Jones puts so much faith in him

You might talk about Marcus Smith’s kicking or his deft finishing, about Guy Porter’s happy knack of being in the right place at the right time, twice, or Freddie Steward’s strength in the air and his punishing runs from the deep. But really in years ahead, long after all that and the rest of this 52-13 victory has been forgotten about, it will be Ellis Genge’s performance that people are still talking about. Japanese coaches, at least, will still be telling the little kids they are teaching spook stories about him, and how Genge will come for them if they don’t finish their greens or get up and run that one last lap of the track.

The only place they will not mention his name will be in Jiwon Gu’s house, where, you guess, his family will know better than to bring it up for fear of triggering the old tighthead prop. Genge made sure Gu had a long, traumatic afternoon at Twickenham.

Usually it would be a cliche to say Genge gave Gu a lesson in scrummaging. This time, though, it was literally true. Genge had forced Gu into giving away penalties at each of the first three scrums, and when the fourth was reset, 28 minutes into the game, Genge actually crossed over to Gu and started giving him technical advice on his binding, complete with elaborate hand gestures, so both front rows would be more stable when they engaged. It was like watching Godzilla break off from laying waste to a tower block so he could give the residents tips on the finer points of dealing with monsters.

England scored off the first of those scrum penalties, after it was kicked to touch, and would have done so again off the second if Tom Curry had not knocked on before making the last pass to Jonny Hill. It wasn’t just the points, though, England’s dominance there completely destabilised Japan in the first half. They were a team under siege, and had so little time and space to work in that they ended up making horrid decisions and throwing harried passes that led to turnovers. Genge was in the thick of it in the loose too, where he came charging out of the line like someone had hidden firecrackers in his pants before the match.

He utterly flattened Dylan Riley in England’s 22, and then did it to Gu, too, when they met in midfield. England won turnovers off both.

Ellis Genge caps off his performance by scoring England’s fourth try against Japan.
Ellis Genge caps off his performance by scoring England’s fourth try against Japan. Photograph: Toby Melville/Reuters

Then, for good measure, Genge finished their fourth try to make it 31-6. It was a score that left everyone watching with unanswered questions about exactly how many Japanese tacklers it would take to stop him. Kyle Sinckler had charged once, and been beaten back, when Genge came again fast on to a flat pass from five metres out. He hit Gerhard van den Heever, who slowed him as much as a snagged bramble, and pressed on, carrying the lock Jack Cornelsen on his back and pushing through Tevita Tatafu. By the time he dived over the line Gu had joined in the gang tackle too, so Genge was dragging four men with him.

The man of the match award ended up going to Steward, and isn’t that just a prop forward’s lot. Of course Genge can do a lot of fancy stuff, too – he has a fine pair of hands for a prop – but here he was back to doing the spade work. He epitomised England’s aggressive approach in defence, led the charge in the loose and dominated the scrums. In between it all, he kept up a running dialogue with the referee, James Doleman, about the set pieces. He was at the heart of almost everything England did in the opening 20 minutes, when Japan were blown off the pitch.

Eddie Jones has invested a lot in Genge over the last year by bringing him through into England’s leadership group as he’s tried to rebuild the team. It is easy to see why he likes him. Genge always plays like he has a point to prove.

The trouble with doing it against Japan is that England will not get a lot of credit for it, even though this is the same side that pushed the All Blacks so close just a couple of weeks ago (although, it has to be said, they played a hell of a lot better that day). But still, Genge’s performance was put into some perspective by the way the game changed when Jones took him off after 50 minutes (thinking, presumably, of how important he will be for the team in the fortnight ahead when they play New Zealand and then South Africa). Mako Vunipola came on in his place and Japan, who still had Gu on the pitch, flipped it around and won penalties at both of the next two scrums.

So yes, there are bigger challenges ahead. Given the form Genge is in right now, there will be better performances for them, too.


Andy Bull at Twickenham

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
England can rewrite history by beating New Zealand, says Eddie Jones
Eddie Jones said England could rewrite history by beating New Zealand at Twickenham next Saturday

Gerard Meagher at Twickenham

12, Nov, 2022 @8:41 PM

Article image
Porter and Smith power England’s seven-try return to form against Japan
Guy Porter scored his first tries for England as Eddie Jones’s side defeated Japan 52-13 at Twickenham.

Gerard Meagher at Twickenham

12, Nov, 2022 @5:25 PM

Article image
Jones’s England face challenge to liberate themselves against Japan
Japan have the perfect armoury to exploit any overeagerness from wounded hosts England at Twickenham

Gerard Meagher

11, Nov, 2022 @6:00 PM

Article image
England ‘right to go for the draw’ with New Zealand, says Owen Farrell
England captain Owen Farrell defended the decision to take a 25-25 draw with New Zealand at Twickenham rather than push for a win

Gerard Meagher at Twickenham

19, Nov, 2022 @9:47 PM

Article image
Eddie Jones adamant England are still ‘moving in the right direction’
The England head coach has accepted full responsibility for the 27-13 defeat to South Africa but insisted his team remain on course for the World Cup

Gerard Meagher at Twickenham

26, Nov, 2022 @9:47 PM

Article image
By any mimes necessary: Eddie Jones wants England to act out in training
Eddie Jones is introducing the art of mime to England training sessions in an effort to improve his squad’s non-verbal communication

Gerard Meagher

22, Oct, 2022 @9:00 PM

Article image
George Ford’s long-hanging, grass-finding kicks can leave Japan chasing shadows | Will Hooley
With Ford, Owen Farrell and the attack coach Richard Wigglesworth on song together, England have a trio who can lay down a winning strategy

Will Hooley

16, Sep, 2023 @2:00 PM

Article image
South Africa pick up cudgel and rapier to bury England | Andy Bull
There was no thrilling Twickenham comeback this time as savvy Springboks come out on top in attritional battle

Andy Bull at Twickenham

26, Nov, 2022 @9:10 PM

Article image
Twickenham faithful rise to salute a comeback for the ages | Andy Bull
Three England tries in seven late minutes salvaged a 25-25 draw with New Zealand in a match that had appeared lost

Andy Bull at Twickenham

19, Nov, 2022 @10:05 PM

Article image
England players know Test futures could be on the line against Japan
England players will head into Saturday’s match with Japan aware that their Test futures could be on the line

Gerard Meagher

09, Nov, 2022 @7:46 PM