'There's that private-school mould in rugby. It's stopping the game from progressing' 9 months ago

'There's that private-school mould in rugby. It's stopping the game from progressing'

Leicester and England prop Ellis Genge has said that rugby must do a better job of opening up pathways to kids from non-fee paying backgrounds if the sport ever wants to progress.

Genge, 23, was raised on the Knowle West council estate in Bristol and spent three years with the now Bristol Bears before moving to Leicester in 2016.

Genge said that he felt that his face didn't fit at times when growing up in rugby circles and that he felt like an outsider at times because he didn't hail from a white, middle-class background.

'All this s*** with Raheem Sterling got me thinking,' he told Nik Simon in a brilliant interview with the Daily Mail. 'You've got one story for a white 18-year-old and another story for a black boy. It's no different in rugby, you know.

'It's something I want to speak about because my whole career I've felt like I can't express my opinion. I feel like, in rugby, people aren't allowed to be themselves. They're so false and that stops our sport from growing. It breaks me.

'When I was 16, 17, 18, I never made any of the age-group teams. I feel that's because my face didn't fit. I'm not white middle-class — I'm working class. I don't want to put it down to race — I don't think it's about that — but I'll put it down to culture. The way people are raised and brought up. There's that private-school mould in rugby. It's stopping the game from progressing and it's painful.

'I have friends working on scaffolding sites back home who are quicker than Jonny May. That's where football and those other sports have cracked it. Is rugby really grass-roots? When I was younger, I never felt comfortable sitting in the clubhouse having my chips and sausage because I just felt everyone was looking at me thinking, "Who the f*** is this"?'

Leinster prop Tadhg Furlong admitted at last year's One Zero conference that he had a chip on his shoulder when he was coming through his development at Leinster and that he had a point to prove given his background.

"Coming from the non-traditional route, I had a massive chip on my shoulder. I had something to prove," said Furlong.

"I remember, and I hope they don't mind me saying it, these posh, private school lads from Dublin. I was competing against these. You put that chip on your shoulder to drive on and help you make something of yourself."

Of the 29 players raised in the Republic that were named in Joe Schmidt's Six Nations squad earlier this year, 21, 0r 78% of players graduated from fee-paying schools.