Steve Borthwick made a suggestion that George Martin’s starting position for England against South Africa on Saturday is partially due to the forceful weight lock he brings to the scrum.
After making an impression from the bench in the second row and at No. 6, Martin is above Ollie Chessum, his teammate from Leicester, in the standings. Martin will pair up with Maro Itoje in the engine room as they take on the formidable Springboks in Paris.
Under Eddie Jones, the 22-year-old made his England debut in 2021 as a replacement against Ireland. However, he had to wait two years to earn his second cap, which came against Wales in England’s first World Cup warm-up this summer. He did, however, come back to the international arena a larger, bulkier version of himself, and he is now well known for being one of the Premiership’s fiercest hitters.
Borthwick, who coached Martin at Tigers, said: “I have known him for a few years, from a young man, and to see him now, he looks at home on the international stage.
“He has come on to the pitch in the second row and at six in this tournament. Every minute he has been on the field, he has performed and at some big, key moments as well. He embraces getting onto the pitch and giving everything he can for the team. He is a real team man.
“The front-row boys, they always talk about what they think on the second-rows, some pretty direct feedback on how much weight they’re giving. They are usually pretty positive about the weight George Martin gives.
“He’s a young man, very athletic young man but he is one that every challenge, since I started working with him a few years ago, every challenge I’ve put in front of him, he’s embraced and ripped right into it.”
Martin is one of three changes made by England from their 30–24 victory over Fiji in the Marseille quarterfinals. Borthwick confirmed Marcus Smith was not eligible for selection because he failed a step in the return to play protocols, so Freddie Steward takes over at full-back.
Joe Marler of the Harlequins will start at loosehead prop ahead of vice-captain Ellis Genge in the other alteration.
When Frans Malherbe lined up at tighthead for the Springboks, it was suggested to Borthwick that Marler’s perceived scrummaging strength may have played a role. However, the England head coach insisted that it had more to do with selecting the right combinations as he put together his own “Bomb Squad” to come off the bench with the goal of pushing England into a second consecutive World Cup final in the final 20 minutes, which is when he believes big games are decided.
Borthwick added: “Both of these players [Marler and Genge] are top-quality scrummagers and I think that’s really important given the strength of the South African scrum. Every piece of information has them as the best scrum in the world.
“So, we know we are going to need to scrum well throughout the game – not just at loose-head but understanding the combination of the two sets of front row forwards we have, that’s also important. I think Joe to start and Ellis to finish is the right combination this week.”