Ben Earl: “I would do anything to play for England again. This is the pinnacle ‘| England rugby union team
THELast Sunday, two of England’s most talented young athletes sat down to share a consolation beer. Zak Crawley lost his test spot this year following a poor run with the bat while his close friend Ben Earl was left out of Eddie Jones’ first team camp of the season. A year ago, you would have been quoted with long ratings on both scenarios.
This shows how much shape and, in particular, fortune can fluctuate, even for those with unusual abilities. Just 13 months ago, Crawley scored a memorable 267 against Pakistan as his former schoolmate, also 23, won his 13th consecutive England call on the bench against Ireland in March. âWe had a long discussion about form and selection,â says Earl. âThe last time we sat down things were going great. We’ve both had our challenges ever since.
The good news is that the couple, born four weeks apart, are determined to be reborn. After spending years chasing the same balls – they both attended Tonbridge School, played Kent Age Group cricket and now play golf together with single-digit handicaps – they have learned to appreciate each other’s advice when life gets a little more difficult. âSometimes it’s good to offload on someone who doesn’t have a rugby agenda,â admits Earl. âI like to think it’s a relationship that helps us both. Did we sometimes struggle with selection and form? Yes. But it’s good to know that it doesn’t just happen to you, it also happens in other sports.
It’s a revealing glimpse under the glossy cover of elite competition: even the greatest riders sometimes have to hang on. There are currently several in this category at Saracens, with brothers Vunipola and Jamie George also being omitted from Jones’ initial squad. “Some people have been a bit stung by what has happened in the last few weeks and months,” Earl said bluntly ahead of the club’s trip to Premiership CEO Leicester. “This group has never been so motivated, collectively or individually.”
Most other countries would love to be able to pick a player of Earl’s caliber. Bristol was certainly grateful to have him last season when, with the Saracens relegated to the Championship, he had a successful year on loan with the Bears. Very fast and dynamic athlete, he also comes from a very successful family. Her mother, Belinda, was once the youngest general manager of an FTSE500 retail company and received an OBE in 2017 and her father, David, is a retired lawyer. Not all rugby internationals have a degree in comparative literature from Queen Mary University in London either.
But none of that, in the end, carries much weight when it comes to convincing Jones. With Tom Curry, Sam Underhill, Sam Simmonds, Alex Dombrandt, Callum Chick, Lewis Ludlam, Lewis Ludlow, Ted Hill and Jack Kenningham all included in last month’s squad and the injured Jack Willis has yet to return, competing to start in the England’s back row has rarely been more intense.
Sometimes it feels like Jones is always looking for the impossible: a reincarnation of the great George Smith. Either way, it’s strange that Earl has been picked to play 13 tests since being first selected for a tour of South Africa in 2018, but yet to be trusted to make a single start. . Not that the player is currently picky about the number on his back. âI would do anything to play for England again. It’s the pinnacle of the game and the best days of my career have been wearing a rose on my shirt. That’s all the motivation I need. I don’t go out every weekend thinking, “I have to impress Eddie.” I just have to keep fighting for the club and he will take care of himself.
It doesn’t hurt that the Saracens, only in the Premiership, are looking to support and improve the mental health of their players, having named former England flanker Calum Clark as their ‘player in the well-being and development of the players’ . In Earl’s opinion, this is already paying off. âI still think rugby is stuck inâ¦ I don’t mean the Stone Age but it’s stuck in its ways. It’s more of a male alpha or beta environmentâ¦ tough love, if you don’t play, keep going. It can sometimes wear out.
âBeing a young player can also be a pretty strange time. One week you start, the next you’re on the bench, the next you’re not involved for whatever reason. Calum is here toâ¦ not soften things up but to remind you that things are never as low as they seem. I have certainly chosen his brain and chatted for the past two months. He has been a great help to me in my short career.
The more impressive Earl’s talks, the more you wonder why England’s leadership still seems slightly skeptical. His mother started her working life as a Saturday assistant in the menswear department of her local Debenhams in Devon at the age of 16 and her eldest son is not lacking in drive and ambition either. calm. He currently lives in a building site in North West London – “We have a roof now but I think it’s going to be soon” – in the midst of renovations to his terraced house in Queen’s Park, but his year in Bristol has opened up for him. eyes on other horizons. . âI’m always open to trying something new. I love the rugby league, I love the NRL. If the opportunity presented itself later, I would love to give it a shot.
For now, however, propelling the Saracens to a happier place is his top priority. âI think the group has more perspective. He’s matured, he’s been humiliated, and he’s pushing back in a slightly new direction in terms of what’s important. We are pursuing the same things, but what is important now is the fun, the appreciation of the position we find ourselves in and the feeling that we are growing as people and players. We are hungrier than ever.
And personally? âAlmost every game you play these days you’re up against someone who wants to be you. Or vice versa. It’s brilliant. If I was looking for personal motivation, I have it every week. I’m only 23 and hope to have many years of playing ahead of me. I just have to keep going. Things aren’t going to change overnight, but you can always get started. As for the Royal Crawley, English sport has not finished hearing the Duke of Earl.