Comparisons to 'Mr Incredible' and aiming to cause destruction - England's George Martin is ready to make an impact again

George Martin celebrates a turnover in the World Cup semi-final against South Africa
©Photo by Adam Pretty - World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images

With England in the ascendency, a thunderous tackle from George Martin on Franco Mostert felt like, at the time, a tone-setter in last year’s World Cup semi-final against South Africa.

“Yeah, special, 100 per cent,” Martin reflects. “It was a great game, just a shame we came up short but they’re the games, the physical games, the proper Test matches where it’s so physical, it’s just all man against man, and it’s class.”

Martin’s impressive display in what turned out to be an agonising defeat to the Springboks left many excited about what the 6ft 6in 22-year-old could offer Steve Borthwick’s side in both the short and the long term.

However, the progression of the Leicester Tigers forward was immediately stunted after he suffered an MCL injury during that semi-final.

Martin was able to return ‘about six weeks early’ to feature in the Investec Champions Cup and the Gallaher Premiership but then experienced another setback.

“I was starting to get back into it then I got a bit unlucky and hyper-extended my knee against La Rochelle,” adds Martin. “It was like a little bone bruising almost in my tibia. It had to settle for a couple of weeks, which is why I missed the opening games of the Six Nations.

“These things happen. You’ve just got to get on with it.”

But now Martin is doing what he does best again, and Borthwick didn’t wait around to throw the 19-stone forward straight back into the action with the Tigers man playing 33 minutes in England’s defeat to Scotland last week.

Given he was utilised at the first available opportunity suggests England are keen to see Martin reach the levels he did at the World Cup as he aims to keep adding to his 10 caps.

But even though his stock is rising internationally - whilst also being one of Leicester’s most important operators - the man himself is as down to earth as it gets.

Asked if he gets recognised around Leicester, Martin replied: “I put my hood up, I'm all right! I've been driving into camp with Joe Heyes [Leicester prop]. Joe was waiting outside the block of flats I'm in and he's got a car with his name on the side.

“A Tigers fan came over and asked why he was here and he said 'George Martin lives here' and they said they'd seen me.

“I need a new car, to be honest. I'm in a little Volkswagen. Ches [Leicester and England teammate Ollie Chessum] always takes the mick out of me and says it's like Mr Incredible climbing into a car. It's like a Volkswagen Up. It was my first car and I haven't changed it. Hopefully, I'm getting something sorted soon!”

With him admitting he is still driving his first-ever car, there are no previous wheels for Martin so while he has grown in stature physically, upgrading things elsewhere haven’t necessarily followed suit.

His extra-long golf clubs, however, are a welcome addition to Martin’s life away from the rugby field but his sizable frame is most certainly a valuable attribute which England are looking to profit from.

For Martin, nailing down a position in the locks seems to be the target as he competes with Maro Itoje as well as club teammate Chessum, who he has played in the second row with for Leicester this term.

“We've played a lot together but only in the last six weeks before the Six Nations have we played in the row together,” Martin, who has also operated at blindside flanker, explains.

“We played a little bit in the World Cup but it has been a long time coming. We have both been at each other for ages. We have always wanted to play in the row together and hopefully we can play in the row for many years to come. It would be good. He is a great lad and I've got a lot of time for him.

“We [Martin, Chessum and Itoje] all want to get better and push each other and that's the best thing about it. Say if Ches starts one week, I want to start the next, you know? We're all trying to make each other better, we're all open and honest with each other too so it's good.”

Following their 30-21 Six Nations loss to Scotland last week, there was an immediate sense of doom and gloom around this evolving England side but with players like Martin very much a symbol of the future - who has an appetite to give it his all - that has to be a reason to be optimistic.

The rookie's proactiveness shines through too. During his injury lay-off, he saw it as a ‘good opportunity’ to build on other parts of his game including: “The blast at the breakdown. Post-tackle, making sure my second effort is there and causing destruction at the breakdown.

“And my carry work as well; getting my hands on the ball more and how I can be more effective and more abrasive in contact.”

Perhaps these specifics can be the new superpowers of England's Mr Incredible and while Borthwick's side don't need someone to swoop in and save the day just yet, having Martin fit and ready to pull on his 'super suit' again will only help their cause against Ireland next Saturday.