Lewis Ludlam has no qualms about the leadership qualities of new England captain Ellis Genge after first encountering the “mad dog” prop as a teenager in schools rugby.
Genge, 28, will lead England out for the first time against France at Twickenham on Saturday in the penultimate round of the Six Nations after regular skipper Owen Farrell was dropped to the bench by coach Steve Borthwick.
The English 15-a-side code has long been seen as the preserve of those who attended elite educational establishments such as Rugby, the Midlands private school that gave the sport its name.
Genge, however, started out on a council estate in the southwest city of Bristol.
“Ellis is a brilliant skipper. He plays with his heart on his sleeve,” Northampton back-row Ludlam said Thursday.
“When he talks it’s convincing, people can get behind him. He’s someone you want to battle for, someone you want to fight for.”
Ludlam, who has retained his place in England’s starting XV to face reigning Six Nations champions France in the latest edition of ‘Le Crunch’, added: “He always puts his body on the line and he’s a good mate of mine, so the opportunity to follow him into battle is something I’m looking forward to.”
The 27-year-old recalled: “I remember playing against him when we were 14 years old — and he’s not somebody you want to play against.
“He was a mad dog…It actually kicked off in the game. I remember him being in it and there were parents screaming on the side of the pitch!
“We’ve got a mutual respect for each other. We’re very close off the pitch, but when we play against each other we’re usually at each other’s necks.
“When we get the chance to pull on the jersey together he’s got my back and I’ve got his.
“The fact you’ve got someone who will pretty much go to the death to win games with you is exciting.”