Jamie George has urged his England team to put their passion on full display when one of rugby’s great rivalries is renewed at Twickenham on Saturday.

Wales are the opponents in round two of the Guinness Six Nations and new captain George is determined to match their zeal for the jersey when he leads the team out on home soil for the first time.

England are hoping to improve engagement with their supporters through changes to the matchday experience at Twickenham, such as increasing the length of the players’ walk through the crowds from their bus to the changing room.

On their last appearance at the ground in August they were booed off by their own fans having lost to Fiji for the first time in their history in a deflating Rugby World Cup send-off.

George is keen for England to find their own inspiration rather than looking to emulate Celtic fury, but he knows that results will ultimately shape the relationship between team and supporters.

“We don’t want to replicate anything, we want to do things our way. We can build emotion and motivation through different ways,” the Saracens hooker said.

“Something we have talked about a lot as a group is passion and not being afraid to show passion. I’ve certainly been encouraging of that this week.

“If people want to use that passion and emotion, as long as we are controlled and clear about what we are doing rugby-wise, I don’t see why we shouldn’t do that.

“We don’t want to replicate anyone else’s emotion – we are never going to try to do things another team’s way. We want to be authentic.”

England have lost 50 per cent of their Six Nations matches at Twickenham over the last three years as part of a significant period of underachievement in the tournament pre-dating Steve Borthwick’s arrival as head coach.

“First and foremost, we’ve identified that our win rate there hasn’t been good enough. The most intimidating atmospheres come off the back of the most intimidating teams,” George said.

“If we want to be the the type of team we want to be and create an intimidating environment to play in at Twickenham then we have to be the sort of team that we want to be.

“I think there’s going to be a great buy-in and a great atmosphere at Twickenham. Now the responsibility is on us as players to go and back that up.”

Borthwick has named an unchanged matchday 23 to the one announced for the 27-24 victory over Italy after prop Ellis Genge recovered from a foot injury to take his place on the bench.

Wing Immanuel Feyi-Waboso made his Test debut in Rome on Saturday and he continues as a replacement against the nation of his birth.

The 21-year-old wing sensation has pledged allegiance to England despite being born and raised in Cardiff, prompting Wales boss Warren Gatland to remark that his decision had not gone down well across the border.

“Manny came on and did really well against Italy. He has been an incredibly calm, composed and mature character,” Borthwick said.

“He’s trained very well and in the little time I’ve known him he doesn’t seem to get fazed. I only have good things to say about him.”

Ellis Genge insists he has shown the healing powers of Marvel superhero Wolverine in recovering from his hamstring injury in time for England’s Six Nations opener.

In a significant boost for Steve Borthwick ahead of Wednesday’s squad announcement for the Championship, Genge is on course to be fit to face Italy on February 3.

The Bristol prop inured his hamstring in early December and while Friday’s European clash with Connacht is too soon for his comeback, he could return against Bath a week later if England decide he needs the game time.

“I’m all good. They said the hammy has healed. They said miraculous, like Wolverine,” said Genge in reference to the X-Men character who can repair damaged tissue at an extraordinary rate.

“They said there is still a little bit of scar tissue that is a little bit immature, so we’ll just tick away at that this week. But I should be fit.

“The rehab has been long, daunting. It’s tough watching everyone else playing.

“Obviously when your team is not performing well and you’re one of the bigger players you want to be involved, but unfortunately I’ve been sitting on the sidelines pulling my hair out.”

Genge’s recovery has eased the crisis that had developed at loosehead after Joe Marler injured an arm, Bevan Rodd was ruled out of the entire Six Nations by a broken toe and Mako Vunipola retired from international rugby.

Bath’s Beno Obano has been playing himself into contention and is likely to be included among the 36 players named by Borthwick on Wednesday morning.

“Beno has been amazing,” said Genge, speaking at the Netflix Six Nations documentary premiere.

“It gives you fire, whether you like it or not. You’d be lying if you said it doesn’t push you to get back fit and prove to the world what you can do.”

Genge’s front-row colleague Jamie George is expected to be named England’s captain for the Six Nations after Owen Farrell ruled himself out of the tournament in order to prioritise his mental wellbeing.

Ellis Genge is “ready to go” for England in their Guinness Six Nations campaign, according to Bristol boss Pat Lam.

The news is a major front-row fitness boost for England head coach Steve Borthwick after injuries and suspension hit hard at loosehead prop.

Genge, an England captaincy contender following Owen Farrell’s decision to miss the Six Nations, has not played for his club Bristol since early December due to a hamstring injury, but Lam has delivered an encouraging fitness bulletin.

“Ellis has a chance of starting the Six Nations. He is right on track,” Lam said.

“He has started running and will probably join us in training next week. The medical team and Ellis have done a great job.

“He looks bigger as well, and one thing you can do when you are injured is get bigger, stronger, faster and more powerful.

“He will not play for us next weekend, and then he is with England so will not be with us for Bath (on January 27).

“I do not know if they would release him for the Bath game because they will be away abroad. That is up to Steve, but he is ready to go for England.”

Genge’s fellow loosehead props Joe Marler, Bevan Rodd, Mako Vunipola and Val Rapava-Ruskin are also currently on the sidelines.

Borthwick’s problems include a four-match ban being imposed on Saracens’ Vunipola, who was sent off for a dangerous tackle against Premiership opponents Newcastle.

Although he will be available if required for the Six Nations, experienced campaigner Vunipola cannot play again until after Saracens’ Premiership appointment with Exeter, which is only a week before England face Italy in Rome on February 3.

Sale forward Rodd is out for the rest of this season after undergoing toe surgery and Gloucester’s Rapava-Ruskin, who was part of England’s World Cup training squad last year, is another long-term absentee following a knee operation.


Marler, meanwhile, has an arm injury, the extent of which has not yet been revealed by his club Harlequins.

Quins head coach Danny Wilson said on Tuesday: “Joe is a week-by-week process at the moment to make a full assessment of the time period and the time-frame.

“He is not going to play this weekend – that is pretty clear – but what I can’t give is a time-frame. There have been a few twists and turns with it.

“Until we get a full picture and a full time-frame, and we are in that process at the moment, then I can’t really tell you a huge amount.”

Harlequins prop Joe Marler’s arm injury is being assessed by specialists amid front-row concerns for England ahead of the Guinness Six Nations.

Marler’s fellow loosehead props Ellis Genge, Bevan Rodd, Mako Vunipola and Val Rapava-Ruskin are all currently on the sidelines.

And Quins are awaiting a full medical verdict on Marler, who went off during the Gallagher Premiership victory over Gloucester at Twickenham on Saturday.

England head coach Steve Borthwick has potentially been presented with a major headache just a month before England’s Six Nations opener against Italy in Rome.

His problems include a four-match ban being imposed on Saracens’ Vunipola, who was sent off for a dangerous tackle against Premiership opponents Newcastle.

Although he will be available if required for the Six Nations, experienced campaigner Vunipola cannot play again until after Saracens’ Premiership appointment with Exeter, which is only a week before the Italy clash.

Vunipola missed out on the Rugby World Cup in France, with Borthwick choosing Genge, Marler and Rodd to fill three loosehead slots.

Genge, an England captaincy contender following Owen Farrell’s decision to miss the Six Nations, last featured for his club Bristol on December 2. He has been sidelined due to a hamstring injury.

Sale forward Rodd is out for the rest of this season after undergoing toe surgery and Gloucester’s Rapava-Ruskin, who was part of England’s World Cup training squad last year, is another long-term absentee following a knee operation.

Borthwick will announce his Six Nations squad in the near future, with prop resources seemingly being stretched.

On 88 times-capped Marler, Quins rugby director Billy Millard said: “We had three big injuries in the first-half to three very influential and key decision-makers on the pitch (Marler, Dino Lamb and Stephan Lewies).

“To be totally honest, they are still seeing specialists. I think some of them have turned out alright, but I am still not 100 per cent clear on the three. We are still waiting for total clarity.

“It’s his (Marler’s) arm, but again, they are getting MRIs and there are specialists looking at it and until I am 100 per cent clear I wouldn’t want to speculate.

“God love him, he battled on for a long time, but we have got specialists looking at him as we speak. I doubt very much he will be available for selection (against Newcastle on Friday).

“Fingers crossed, it is only a short-term one. Joe is Joe. He is big for us in so many ways. Hopefully, it is not a long one for him.”

On a positive note, Genge’s situation appears to be improving, with Bristol rugby director Pat Lam stating: “He is back running now, so he is on track.

“He is certainly going to make the Six Nations, whether he makes the start… the most important thing is that he gets back to playing.”

Saracens and England prop Mako Vunipola has received a four-match ban after being sent off against Gallagher Premiership opponents Newcastle.

Vunipola was dismissed during the closing stages of Saturday’s encounter following a dangerous tackle on Newcastle hooker Bryan Byrne.

He will miss Saracens’ Premiership appointments with Leicester and Exeter, plus Investec Champions Cup games against Bordeaux-Begles and Lyon.

Vunipola, though, will be available for England’s Guinness Six Nations opener against Italy in Rome on February 3 if head coach Steve Borthwick decides to recall him.

And that could prove timely, given current injuries to England’s three World Cup squad loosehead props Ellis Genge, Joe Marler and Bevan Rodd.

Vunipola’s case was heard by an independent disciplinary panel.

“The player admitted that foul play took place, but not that it met the red card threshold,” the Rugby Football Union said.

“The panel upheld the charge and Vunipola received a four-match ban.

“He is ineligible to take part in World Rugby’s coaching intervention programme, having completed it in 2022.”

Had Vunipola not already done that programme, he could have applied on this occasion and then expected to have had one game subtracted from the suspension.

Marcus Smith was ruled out of England’s World Cup semi-final against South Africa because of concussion, head coach Steve Borthwick has confirmed.

Smith has been replaced at full-back by Freddie Steward after he took a series of blows in the last-eight victory over Fiji that resulted in him finishing the match with a bandaged head and fat lip.

A tackle by wing Vinaya Habosi forced him to undergo an HIA which he passed, but he failed the subsequent return to play protocols and has been stood down for Saturday’s Stade de France showdown.

England have made two further changes to their starting XV with prop Joe Marler and lock George Martin coming in for Ellis Genge and Ollie Chessum respectively.

“Marcus was unavailable for selection due to the return to play protocols. He was ruled out earlier in the week,” Borthwick said.

“He took a knock in the game and passed the first parts of the HIA process, which meant he finished the game.

“Then there are subsequent parts of the HIA process and one part of that he did not pass. And then it was confirmed to me he was unavailable for selection.

“He is perfectly fine in terms of symptoms – he doesn’t feel anything. We’d expect him to be available for selection after this weekend. It’s right to reiterate that player welfare is critical and vital to us.”

Whether a fit Smith would have been retained at 15 is unknown, but it appears unlikely given the precision and variety of South Africa’s kicking game.

Smith offers a cutting edge in attack but Steward is one of the game’s most accomplished full-backs – ultra-dependable under the high ball, strong in defence and a key component of England’s kick-chase.

Captain Owen Farrell is aware of the aerial onslaught coming in Paris but is backing Steward to thrive.

“The thing about Freddie is everybody knows how good he is in the air, everybody knows what a fantastic player he is in general,” Farrell said.

“But it’s the want to do it, the want to be in those battles, the want to go and get the ball back for his team, the want to defuse what’s coming our way. He is one of the best in the world at it.

“The kicking game has been a massive weapon for South Africa for years and years now. They’ve progressed it and they go on with a lot of contestable kicks.

“We’ve done our work and we’ve come up with our plan to negate what we can from them but also looking to be able to attack ourselves.”

The adjustments to the tight five see Marler’s scrummaging prowess get him the nod ahead of Genge, with Borthwick noting that South Africa have the “best scrum in the world”.

Martin will bring physicality to the second row while Genge and Chessum will take their place in England’s answer to the ‘Bomb Squad’ – the heavyweight forward reinforcements that the Springboks summon from the bench.

South Africa this week rejected the suggestion that in their quarter-final victory over France they used HIAs to rotate forwards Mbongeni Mbonambi, Pieter-Steph Du Toit and Duane Vermeulen, enabling them to take a rest.

Director of rugby Rassie Erasmus has a reputation for taking an innovative approach to the laws and testing their boundaries, but Borthwick has faith in the officials to spot any mischief.

“We have got a match officials team that’s world class, led by Ben O’Keeffe,” Borthwick said.

“I am sure everybody around the pitch as well will have every bit of process in place. There is no issues there from our perspective.”

England prop Ellis Genge believes the Rugby World Cup in France is a “wide open” tournament.

Only four countries – New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and England – have won the competition across its nine previous stagings.

But if the current world rankings prove an accurate guide, then a new name could be engraved on the trophy this time around with Ireland currently topping that list and France holding third place.

“Someone spoke to me recently and said about Ireland, South Africa and Eddie (Jones) going back to Australia,” England prop Genge said.

“They didn’t even mention New Zealand, so it shows where people’s heads are at. New Zealand are still one of the best teams in the world.

“You have seen the upsets we’ve had in recent years, and I think it is wide open.

“I think any good team is very, very good at what they do. There is no magic potion.

“You have to be very good at what you set out to do, and that is what all the best teams in history have done.

“I think the key factor is finding your identity and being really good at that. It is about hanging your hat on something.”

While Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa and Scotland all find themselves in the draw’s top half, England’s initial testing hurdles appear to be pool rivals Argentina – they meet in Marseille on September 9 – and potential quarter-final opponents Australia, Wales or Fiji if they reach the last-eight.

Genge is set to win his 50th cap at some point during England’s World Cup warm-up schedule.

Since the last tournament in Japan four years ago, when Genge made two appearances as a replacement, he has captained his country and established himself as England’s first-choice loosehead prop.

He is also among two World Cup vice-captains named by head coach Steve Borthwick, joining Courtney Lawes in understudying World Cup skipper Owen Farrell.

Asked how much he feels he has grown as a player since the last World Cup, Genge added: “I wouldn’t even pin it on growing as a player, to be honest. It’s more growing as a person.

“I’ve had two kids in that space of time. I’ve had some things go on with my family, so I moved back home (to Bristol).

“I am probably in a lot better spot psychologically, as opposed to looking at my performances on the pitch, which have obviously been bolstered by what has happened off it. They definitely coincide.

“It’s about that mentality of switching off, which I am quite good at, and then turning it back on when it counts.

“Switching off is very easy when you’ve got two young kids and a dog – a very big dog at that! That has really helped me as a person and the gym (Genge’s fitness business) is another avenue to take my mind off the game.

“Going into this World Cup, I am more of a senior player and I can’t wait to get involved. I really want to get going now.”

* Ellis Genge is a Dove Men+Care ambassador. For more rugby and stories of personal growth and selfcare, follow @DoveMenUK Twitter or @DoveMenCare Instagram

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