Cockerill delighted by Genge's rise to England captaincy
Ellis Genge's rise to the England rugby captaincy has delighted forwards coach Richard Cockerill, who remembers the days when he just tried to keep the prop "out of trouble".
Genge will lead England for the first time in their Six Nations match against France at Twickenham on Saturday after long-standing skipper Owen Farrell was dropped to the bench by coach Steve Borthwick.
Cockerill was in charge at Leicester when Genge, now 28, was making his mark as a tearaway front row.
"He was a really aggressive young man, young player, with a lot of natural ability who just needed a little bit of guidance in how to channel it," the 52-year-old said on Friday.
Cockerill, a former England hooker, was asked if he had seen a future Test captain in Genge.
"I probably at that point was just happy to keep him out of trouble," said a laughing Cockerill.
"Ellis has matured and developed really well. He's worked really hard at his game both on and off the field and he's matured into a great person and he's a wonderful player."
Cockerill said Genge's character was exemplified by one incident early in his career at Welford Road.
"It was probably a few months into him being at Leicester," said the smiling coach.
"We'd just had a forwards meeting and were leaving in a bit of a jovial mood and I said 'Gengey, do you want a fight?' And he went, 'Who's going to coach the session?'
"He's great fun, and as long as he keeps that sense of humour in what he's doing he'll go from strength to strength.
"He leads by example through how he plays. He's not a big talker but he's a big man of action and that's the way he leads -- through his actions. He's very keen to do that against France."
- 'Passion' -
England and France, the reigning champions, have each lost once in this year's Six Nations and defeat for either side on Saturday would end their title hopes.
Cockerill has a longstanding affection for French rugby, having played in the Top 14, and when the tournament is over he will join Montpellier as their forwards coach.
"I like the passion and the rawness about French rugby," he said. "They love their forward play -- not that the English don't -- but that appeals to me having played there myself.
"We know what physical attributes they bring, they're a big team. Tactically they're very good, but we like to think we're a physical team as well and it's a great opportunity for us to test our set-piece.
"We're going to have to be aggressive when we need to be and really smart when we need to be."
He added: "The French have a great love for the game, the forward battle they see as a game within itself, so we hope there's a little bit of that tomorrow and hopefully it won't be as dirty as when I played."