Ellis Genge sidelined: Who are the options to start for England against the All Blacks

Dylan Coetzee
Split with England stars Bevan Rodd, Ellis Genge and Joe Marler.

Split with England stars Bevan Rodd, Ellis Genge and Joe Marler.

England have been dealt another hammer blow ahead of their tour to Japan and New Zealand with star prop Ellis Genge being ruled out with a calf injury.

Genge has been a key player in the Red Rose set-up for some time and has firmly been the first-choice loosehead for Steve Borthwick, making him a massive loss ahead of such a big tour.

While Genge has been outstanding for England in the scrum and carry, the team also loses their vice-captain, adding further to Borthwick’s stresses at the moment.

With Genge’s absence in mind, we take a closer look at who the England head coach might consider as his replacement during the mid-year window.

Front runner

The obvious choice is Joe Marler, who is a veteran in the Red Rose white having played for his country on more than 90 occasions. The prop has been in solid form throughout the Premiership season and likely would have had a ticket to the southern hemisphere regardless. It is more about whether Borthwick decides to blood new talent or rely on Marler to get the side through.

There is also the loosehead’s mental health consider with the 33-year-old admitting that he struggles to be away from his family for long period. However, should big Joe be available, he will need to stand up to the pressure, particularly as Scott Robertson’s All Blacks contain the outstanding tighthead Tyrel Lomax.

In the mix

Leading the charge in this category is Sale Shark Bevan Rodd, who has five caps to his name at Test level. He has also been in excellent form since his return from the injury that forced him to miss the Six Nations. He has been busy with ball in hand while being handy in the scrum, powering his club to the semi-final stage. Rodd could well be someone Borthwick turns to at some point during the tour.

Beno Obano is another capped player to have a look at, especially with his brilliant form for a resurgent Bath side this season. The prop was used to replace Genge in the Six Nations against Italy after a late withdrawal and Borthwick could be tempted to bring the bubbly character back in.

Uncapped rising star Fin Baxter has also emerged as a very possible candidate to at least take with them on the tour and could be used against Japan initially. The Harlequin has been superb this season, dovetailing nicely with Marler and earning a nomination for the RPA Young Player of the Year award. It may be the ideal time to get Baxter capped on the Test scene.

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Outside bets

Northampton’s Tarek Haffar has also been on the rise with his rather impressive mobility in open play catching the eye. His campaign was so strong that he has already been awarded a new deal at the club. Haffar may not have been heavily involved with the England set-up before but could be a solid addition given that he is only 22 years old.

Emmanuel Iyogun is another Saint who has performed well for his club this season and is also a mobile prop to add to the mix. He is probably in the same bracket as Haffar regarding selection as very much an outside bet but he is still a tempting option.

Newly-signed Saracen Phil Brantingham is on the fringes after a good season in a struggling Newcastle. Ultimately the fact that the reigning Premiership champions have signed him is proof of his quality. Still, he may need to grow some more before donning the Red Rose.

READ MORE: Ollie Chessum sidelined: Who starts for England and how it impacts the back-five for the All Blacks Tests