ELLIS GENGE is already big in Japan.
And if England’s propzilla wants to terrorise Tokyo in 2019 then ripping apart a Samoan scrum today would kick-start his World Cup push.
The mean-machine loosehead — nicknamed Stone Genge for his big hits and bulldozing carries — makes his first start in a Twickenham Test — almost five years after becoming a cult hero at a schools tournament in the Land of the Rising Sun.
Back then, the Leicester bad-boy was a No 8 before the well-respected coach at Hartpury College Alan Martinovic transformed him.
Martinovic, now chief scout at Bristol, said: “Even as a teenager Ellis was a ferocious ball-carrier.
“We had a tournament in Japan and because of the explosive way he played with all that power, the Japanese crowd loved him.
“People were queuing up to take pictures and he was being asked for interviews on national TV.
“Ellis was a bit of a cult hero so I’m sure if he ever wanted to go and play over there then they’d love to have him!
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“The stand-out thing about Ellis on the field was always his aggression. To say that he used to frighten the other kids was an understatement.
“Growing up, when there was an option to run into someone, he would do that.
“And he did quite a bit of damage.
“He got a lot of milage by playing that way, but he then realised that if he wanted to play professional rugby he needed more balance to his game.
“At one time we thought he might be better suited to rugby league because of the way he ran into people and just smashed them.”
After smashing England skipper Dylan Hartley in a tasty East Midlands derby against Northampton, Genge was compared to a ‘baby rhino with a dart up its backside’.
The 22-year-old is certainly not a baby any more — even though he wins only his fifth cap today having been part of the England squad for 18 months.
The 6ft 1in, 18½st prop started both England’s summer Tests in Argentina and gets his chance today as Eddie Jones rests Lions star Mako Vunipola.
He lines up in a much-changed pack with Jamie George, Charlie Ewels and Sam Simmonds also making their first Twickenham starts — but with the familiar face of Tigers team-mate Dan Cole at tighthead.
After Hartpury, Genge joined Bristol and then Leicester in summer 2016 — winning the Premiership’s Discovery of the Season Award a year later. Welford Road boss Matt O’Connor said: “Ellis has been outstanding for us.
“He is still young but he has a massive amount of potential and needs guiding through that early part of his international career.”
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And Martinovic — who also coached current England winger Jonny May and Wales back-row Ross Moriarty — added: “I’m sure Eddie Jones sees him as the future of English rugby.
“Ellis has taken his game up a level and what has stood out is he can still skittle people like when he was a kid and has that relentless attitude to get up and keep going if he gets knocked down.
“He is probably the ideal make-up of what people want from their front-rowers.
“And this Samoa game is a great test for Ellis to show just how far he has come.”
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