Martin has replaced his Leicester team-mate Ollie Chessum in England's starting team to face South Africa in Saturday's semi-final
Steve Borthwick hinted the hefty weight lock George Martin adds to the scrum is partly why he is starting for England against South Africa in Saturday’s semi-final.
Martin has leapfrogged Leicester team-mate Ollie Chessum in the pecking order after impressing from the bench in the second-row and at No 6 and will partner Maro Itoje in the engine room against the Springboks’ monster pack in Paris.
The 22-year-old made his England debut as a replacement against Ireland in 2021 under Eddie Jones but had to wait two years for his second cap against Wales in England’s first World Cup warm-up match this summer. But he returned to the international scene a bulked-up bigger version of himself now widely renowned as one of the Premiership’s hardest hitters.
Borthwick on George Martin starting v Springboks
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 England changes from the 30-24 quarter-final win over Fiji in Marseille. Freddie Steward returns at full-back with Borthwick confirming Marcus Smith was unavailable for selection after failing one stage of the return to play protocols.
The other change sees Harlequins’ Joe Marler start at loosehead prop ahead of vice-captain Ellis Genge.
It was put to Borthwick that this might’ve been a reflection of Marler’s perceived scrummaging strength with Frans Malherbe lining up at tighthead for the Springboks, but the England head coach insisted it was more to do with the right combinations as he assembles his own ‘Bomb Squad’ to come off the bench with the aim of pushing England into a second successive World Cup final in the last 20 minutes, where 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.”