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Genge eyes overtime as stars near game limit 

Leicester prop Ellis Genge is committed to going the extra mile for England in Argentina despite the likelihood of him busting the RFU’s notional 32-game limit.

Yesterday’s Premiership semi-final at Wasps saw Genge rack up his 31st appearance of a lung-bursting campaign in which he has shouldered the Tigers loosehead burden following the early season injury, and eventual retirement, of club legend Marcos Ayerza.

Genge is one of six England players – Dan Cole, Elliot Daly, Maro Itoje, Kyle Sinckler and Mako Vunipola are the others – likely to exceed the seasonal match limit, either in Argentina or during the Lions’ ten-match marathon in New Zealand.

However, the 22-year-old all-action Bristolian is not yet ready to bring down the curtain on a campaign of remarkable personal progress.

Genge told The Rugby Paper: “I’m really excited about getting into camp, then going out to Argentina and getting my teeth into that tour. Argentina are pretty renowned up front so whatever team they put out it will be a really good contest.

“It’s been a big season for me and I’m feeling it a bit now. I didn’t expect to play this much but with Marcos being injured and him then having to pack up, which nobody liked seeing, it’s meant I’ve had to shoulder the burden and get stuck in every week.

“Have I got another two or three games in me? There’s only one way to find out but I’ll give my best shot whether it’s in a Tigers shirt or for England.”

Genge has proved a revelation at Welford Road where, despite a season of upheaval, he was a leading light in Leicester’s surge into the top four.

Ayerza has now entrusted him with his No.1 jersey and, with a contract extension recently signed, Genge said: “It’s been an up and down season on and off the pitch with everything that’s happened coaching-wise, but we haven’t done too badly.

“Making the play-offs for 13 years on the bounce is not bad going by anybody’s standards and coming to Leicester has been great for my rugby.

“I can’t say Leicester appeals to me as a city and Bristol will always be home, but it’s class as a club and I’ll have at least another three years. To be at a club like this is exactly what I needed because being at Bristol wasn’t doing me any favours.”

Genge added: “Marcos Ayerza obviously had a hell of a career at Leicester and he’s told me it’s my turn to crack on in that No.1 jersey now. I promised him I’d give it my all and, coming from someone as revered as him, it was all quite emotional.

“If you look at the front rowers this club’s had down the years – Marcos, Graham Rowntree, Richard Cockerill and the rest – they’re big shoes to fill, so I’m lucky to be wearing this shirt at the moment and it’s one I’ll be battling to keep hold of.”

With No.8 Mitch Eadie becoming Bristol’s latest home-grown player to leave, in his case for Northampton, Genge reckons his old club must address the issue.

He added: “I don’t know what it is about Bristol but right back to the days of Andrew Sheridan and Dave Attwood they’ve lost their top players.

“Mako Vunipola, Marco Mama, myself and Mitch were all there, so if I were Bristol’s CEO I’d be asking why this keeps on happening?”

NEALE HARVEY

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