‘Who do you want me to melt?’ – The story that sums up Courtney Lawes’ ‘heir’

Jared Wright
Teammates separate England's George Martin and South Africa's Cobus Reinach as they scuffle during the Rugby World Cup semifinal match between England and South Africa

Teammates separate England's George Martin and South Africa's Cobus Reinach as they scuffle during the Rugby World Cup semifinal match between England and South Africa.

England forward George Martin produced a memorable performance against South Africa in the 2023 Rugby World Cup semi-final and was a hot topic during the latest episode of Planet Rugby’s Captain’s Call, brought to you by eToro.

Martin was a surprising selection for the crunch clash against the Springboks but stepped up to the mark with a standout performance, particularly on defence and in the mauls.

Courtney Lawes’ heir

The 22-year-old’s performance was lauded during the Captain’s Call podcast featuring Chris Robshaw, Sergio Parisse, Two Cents Rugby and Planet Rugby writer James While.

With Courtney Lawes announcing his retirement from international rugby, the panel agreed that Martin looks set to be his long-term replacement at lock or at blindside flank.

“One player I do want to shout out is George Martin,” While said when reviewing England‘s performance against South Africa.

“There’s very few players that have impressed me as much as George Martin from the first time I laid eyes on him at [Leicester] Tigers, and he’s one of these hybrid lock-sixes. He’s the obvious heir to Courtney Lawes’ throne on the blindside flank.

“He’s built for that job, either playing as a lock but predominantly at six.”

While then went on to tell the story of Martin’s call-up to the England squad during this year’s Six Nations as an injury replacement and the conversation he had on the phone with Steve Borthwick.

“The story I love about him is he got called into the England side during the Six Nations when I think Courtney pulled out or somebody pulled out.

“And apparently, Tigers had a weekend off, and George Martin and his mates had gone to Cheltenham races for a few beers, and Steve Borthwick called him at about three or four o’clock in the afternoon, saying, look, George, I need you to come across to the England squad.

“And he was absolutely … he’d had a few, and he picked up the phone and saw it was Borthwick, and his opening line was ‘Right boss, who do you want me to melt? Who do you want me to fold? Just tell me I’ll be there.’

“I just loved it, and that’s exactly what he did all day [against South Africa] just melted people in the tackle and even the one on [Franco] Mostert.

“Mostert is such a physical player, and he just melted him, ripped the ball off him; wow, this is a kid. He’s 22 years old, and I actually think we’ve got a potential 100-capper there. I think this guy’s incredible.”

South Africa’s comeback

Former Italy captain Parisse agreed and was impressed by the performance of England in the semi-final, with Borthwick’s side leading the Springboks for 77 minutes.

Parisse was complimentary of the Boks’ tactics, though, particularly with how RG Snyman scored the try to get them back in the game.

“It was a huge effort from a lot of the English boys last night,” he said.

“It was incredible to see how physical they were against South Africa, and then Freddie Steward was incredible under the high balls; it was a difficult game to manage.

“The Springbok bench made a difference in the second half; the thing that was particularly surprising was how they scored the try.

“They had the lineout in the England 22; everyone expects them to drive, and they go with a dummy drive, which surprised the English defence.

“Snyman going around the corner and scored quite easily because the carry before gave them the momentum, and then it was really easy to score.”

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READ MORE: England great Courtney Lawes to retire from Test rugby after the World Cup