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Genge bristles at Tupou ‘smash’ call while the rest of us just can’t wait for tonight’s fireworks

Ellis Genge was grumpy as hell but his forwards coach Richard Cockerill is like all rugby fans in Australia today – excited by the prospect of watching the England prop go to to war with Taniela Tupou in their own private battle of the smashes.

“You’ve got to ask better questions, f–k,” was the exasperated Englishman’s reaction halfway through his pre-match press conference. But of course the questions everyone wanted to ask him were about his looming showdown with Tupou, back from a long-term calf injury.

Sure, the media was throwing petrol on the fire, taking Tupou’s compliments for Genge a day earlier and spinning it into a war of words.

“Ellis Genge is going to come out there and try to give it to me and smash me,” Tupou said. “I will do exactly the same thing. I want to give it to him. We will see what happens out there.

“I have heard a lot of talk about him. I saw him absolutely kill it in the English comp with his team and he has captained his side.

“As a loosehead, he can run the ball, he can tackle and he can scrum. This week if he is starting, it will be the first time I have played him. It will be a big challenge but I need to focus on myself and what I can do.”

Genge replied: “I don’t want to give you any headlines but you’ve seen what he says. If you say it you’ve got to back it up. If he’s gonna give me a whack he’ll give me a whack. I’ve had a few.”

Ellis Genge of England passes the ball during game one of the international test match series between the Australian Wallabies and England at Optus Stadium on July 02, 2022 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Will Russell - RFU/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

Ellis Genge of England passes the ball during game one. (Photo by Will Russell – RFU/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

I will be the first time the pair have faced off on the field.

“I love playing against the best tightheads in the world,” said Genge.  I’ve never played against him, never met him. I’ve seen this highlights reel from when he was 16 like everyone. He’s a big lump.”

For those close to the action this is a contest that makes them feel alive.

Cockerill, who played at Suncorp Stadium in 1998 when England lost 76-0 here, beamed when asked if he would have liked to have played against the Tongan Thor.

“It would be great fun wouldn’t it?” Cockerill said. “That’s what you you play for. Those are the challenges. That first clash is going to be great. That’s what the game is all about. So let’s enjoy the the physical parts, the feisty parts and, within the laws of the game, let’s get into it.

“I’m sure they’re saying exactly the same as we’re saying, you know, when Genge gets the ball, they’re gonna want to whack him. When [Tupou] gets the ball, we’re gonna want to whack him. It’s  no different to any other game.

“I’m looking forward to the battle, two big ball carriers, two big physical men who are going to get at it. That’s what sells tickets.”

“It’s probably a good matchup,” said Wallabies captain Michael Hooper.

“In rugby you don’t get a lot of head-to-heads so it is a really unique matchup in terms of front rowers actually coming up against each other. On the side of it, it’s going to be exciting to see. They’re both quality players, and how they work against each other is going to be interesting.”

Taniela Tupouposes during the Australian Wallabies 2022 team headshots session on June 24, 2022 in Sunshine Coast, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images for Rugby Australia)

Taniela Tupou. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images for Rugby Australia)

Genge hardly needs geeing up by an opponent to bring the heat.

“Ellis is pretty self motivated in that regard,” said Cockerill. “Tupou’s not played for a little while so he better turn up and perform if he’s going to start challenging others before we start playing the game.

“Ellis will get on with his game. He’s been very, very good. We know those battles are going to be crucial, and the physical battles are always crucial upfront. So yeah, we look forward to it.”

Genge might have hated the questions, but this answer, about Australia’s scrum, was illuminating.

“I was surprised. They were better than what we probably perceived they were going to be so it was probably a bit naive on our part. Good for them. What are we going to do to turn that around? You’ll find out tomorrow. We have to be better everywhere.”

That hinted at complacency, or at least a failure of preparation, although Cockerill said the preparation has been on point.

“We were ready to play,” Cockerill said. “Early on we got the scrum penalties. At times we didn’t get the scrum penalties. They scored from a line out. We scored from a line out.

“That Wallaby pack has got good players in it. The Brumbies have got a very good set piece, especially around the lineout. So none of it was a surprise to me.

“Any game you’ve got to win a set-piece contest if you want to win the game – or at least have parity.

“We know the threat that Australia bring in their all round game and the way Dave Rennie likes to play. The more we can squeeze the possession away from Australia the better but I’m sure they’ll say the same.

“So the forward battle is going to be key. And let’s look forward to it. We’re an English pack that want to get in the middle of it. And tomorrow we’ll get in the middle of it.”

Angus Bell said the Aussies didn’t just want to compete, they wanted to dominate.

“I thought the scrum was quite messy last week, a few ended up on the deck, he got pinged for hinging a few times,” Genge said of Bell, brushing off his comments too. “Can’t take many things personally, mate, it’s just a game.”

Cockerill added: “Australia took it to us last weekend and at parts they won the physical battle. So we know that we’ve got to turn up when the moment comes. And there’ll be lots of those moments. We need to make sure we’re on it. And we deliver physically, as well as skill wise.

“We’re very much up for the battle. The first Test was tight. It could have gone either way. And you have to take a measured view after you lose a game like that. And we’re coming here to win. There’s no other result that we need.

“It’s very much sleeves rolled up and gum shields in and we’re coming here to win the game.”

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