Ellis Genge shocks Leicester with plans to leave club at end of season

Ellis Genge shocks Leicester with plans to leave club at end of season

Ellis Genge has dropped a bombshell by informing Leicester he will be the latest star player to leave at the end of the season, with the Tigers captain expected to return to his hometown club Bristol.

The 26-year-old was appointed captain at the start of the season and has overseen the Tigers’ 100% winning record so far this term – including the impressive win at Bordeaux last weekend – but he is set to follow George Ford out of the club in the summer, having also opted against extending his existing deal.

This season Genge has also established himself as England’s first‑choice loosehead prop and his homecoming would be a considerable coup for Bristol, who have made a disappointing start to the campaign. Genge has previously spoken of his desire to move back to the West Country, however, and he would join England’s first-choice tighthead, Kyle Sinckler, at Ashton Gate.

His departure is a blow for Leicester, who signed Genge from Bristol in 2016, all the more so given the recent announcement of Ford’s move to Sale for similar reasons. The arrival of the World Cup‑winning fly-half Handré Pollard will soften that blow but losing their captain and their in‑form No 10 is at odds with Leicester’s resurgence under Steve Borthwick.

“I’ll be forever grateful for what this club has given me,” Genge said. “I’ve created lifelong friendships and learnt a great deal. The club has been amazing in understanding my reasons for this decision and I will continue to give everything I have got for the boys and the fans of Leicester Tigers for the rest of this season.”

Saracens had also been linked with Genge should Mako Vunipola leave the club at the end of the season. Both he and brother Billy are out of contract in the summer and out of favour with England. Mako in particular is thought to be weighing up a move to France.

The north London club would be loth to see such high-calibre players depart but Saracens are among a number of Premiership clubs faced with trying to keep all their stars and remain under the reduced salary cap. The issue has been exacerbated because, while a host of clubs re‑signed large swathes of players on partially exempt contracts before that reduction came into force, the majority were on two-year deals which expire this summer.

Saracens, meanwhile, have been forced to forfeit Saturday’s Challenge Cup match against Pau as Covid-19 again affects Europe’s club competitions. Tournament organisers have said Saracens have had a “significant” outbreak and, taking into account close contacts, the club have said that they were unable to field a 23-man squad.

With a host of players and coaches having to isolate, Saracens have closed their training ground and the squad will not convene again until Christmas Eve, two days before they are due to host Worcester. Saracens have insisted that match will go ahead but they are up against it to advance from their Challenge Cup pool now, having lost their opening match to Edinburgh last week.