Ellis Genge tipped to emulate 'rare beasts' David Flatman and Matt Stevens
Rookie England prop Ellis Genge has been tipped to emulate "rare beasts" David Flatman and Matt Stevens and thrive in the Test arena years ahead of expectation.
Just three years ago Genge had never even played in the front-row - now the Bristol star is gearing up for England's senior tour to Australia as one of six props selected by boss Eddie Jones.
The 21-year-old impressed on a recent loan spell at Leicester Tigers and could yet make a permanent Welford Road move this summer, but will first chase a surprise senior breakthrough on England's three-Test Wallabies challenge.
Seasoned talent spotter and top coach Alan Martinovic has helped launch the careers of a host of Test stars, including England men Stevens, Mike Tindall and Steve Borthwick, and now he believes Genge can be the next name on that illustrious list.
"Not too many front-row players force their way through to international rugby in their early 20s, especially in England," Martinovic told Press Association Sport.
"People that spring to mind are David Flatman, he was 20 and playing for England, and Matt Stevens, he was a guy I brought over from South Africa, he was a similar sort of age.
"They were very big, physical specimens for their age and coped alright.
"They are rare beasts those guys, to come and play Premiership rugby, let alone international rugby at that sort of age.
"But Ellis never takes a backward step. He's certainly confident in his own ability and I've never known him fazed by any challenge really.
"He won't be thinking this is all going to be above me or I'm going to be out of my depth here, he'll meet that challenge head-on and that's why he plays the game."
Martinovic has coached more than 100 age-grade internationals and a string of Test stars, across roles with the hugely-successful Colston's School, at Premiership club Bath and with Hartpury College in Gloucester.
The vastly-experienced coach will leave Hartpury after seven years this summer, to become Bristol's head of recruitment and talent identification.
Martinovic led Colston's to seven Daily Mail National Cup titles, before guiding Hartpury's Under-18s to seven successive national cup triumphs.
Hartpury College have scooped three British Universities titles on Martinovic's watch, while the senior club side is now a fixture in National League One.
Martinovic first spied Genge in junior action for Bristol club Keynsham in 2010, before recruiting the then-flanker to Hartpury.
Genge captained Hartpury's Under-18s side as a number eight, and only played his first game for the college at prop in the national cup final in 2013.
Hartpury beat Oaklands College 20-10 in that national AASE League final, with Martinovic pinpointing the moment that Genge's front-row transition began to accelerate.
"His transition from back-row to front-row is relatively recent," said Martinovic.
"It wasn't until he was 18 really that he started to make that change.
"So he's gone from a back-row player at 18 to part of an international squad as a front-row in less than three years.
"You watch a lot of age-grade games, you always have big kids who can impose themselves on smaller kids.
"But as he's progressed, played against people who are as big and as physical, he has always coped.
"He's not a flat-track bully where he's only interested in running over people who are smaller than him, he'll take anybody on.
"That's a huge point of difference for him."