"There's A Lot More In Me" - England's Ben Earl Strives For More Against Scotland After Hot Six Nations Start - Ruck

“There’s A Lot More In Me” – England’s Ben Earl Strives For More Against Scotland After Hot Six Nations Start

There are few players who have been in better form in this year’s Six Nations Championship than England back-row Ben Earl. The Saracen presses on from strength to strength, after being arguably England’s most consistent performer at last year’s Rugby World Cup.

A close second behind dazzling debutant Ethan Roots in Rome, Earl took home the Player of the Match from Twickenham, following England’s narrow 16-14 victory over Wales. The back-row had a starring role in the win over Warren Gatland’s side, and scored a momentum-turning try just before the half-time break.

Try Celebrations for Ben Earl of England as he goes over for a try despite the tackle of Cameron Winnett of Wales during the Six Nations Match between England and Wales at Twickenham, London on 10 February 2024 (Photo: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK)

Earl utilised his versatility at the back of the England scrum, as he picked up the ball and charged for the try-line, battling through a trio of Welsh defenders in his wake. Despite the accomplishments so early in his England career, Earl will not rest on his laurels and pushes to do better in every pressurised international appearence.

“I guess a lot’s changed from that (Rugby World Cup) quarter-final week. But in terms of me as a player I’m nowhere near anywhere I want to be in terms of stature in the game, form or performance. 

“So I know there’s a lot more in me, I know there’s a lot more in terms of what I’m working towards. So I guess the pressure of playing for England is one unlike many others. So there’s personal and pressure from the outside, and you’ve got to thrive off both.”

Ben Earl of England celebrates during the Six Nations Match between England and Wales at Twickenham, London on 10 February 2024 (Photo: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK)

“There’s definitely some overarching things I’m trying to work on, in terms of growing my game. Challenges that Felix (Jones) has put on me, that Wiggy’s (Richard Wigglesworth) put on me, Steve’s (Borthwick) put on me. Then each week is something different, with the team make-up, with the opponents. It’s a bundle of things. 

“It’s about being as consistent with your preparation, with your mindset, with your training as you can be. Then as long as you know you’ve left no stone unturned in your preparation, whatever happens at the weekend happens, and you can be pretty solid with your approach. 

Ben Earl of Saracens sprints with the ball during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby match between Saracens and Leicester Tigers at StoneX Stadium, London on Saturday 4th November 2023 (PHOTO: George Beck/PPAUK)

“I think consistency is the main thing with that. You don’t want to be working on your defence one week then putting that away for a couple of weeks and working on your attack, you’ve got to be topping everything up at each moment. So just about growing my all-round game, and enjoying that process.”

Earl has his eyes firmly set on this weekend’s trip up to Murrayfield as England take on Scotland in round three of the 2024 Six Nations. Speaking in this week’s England media session, Earl addressed how he has fond memories of the fabled Edinburgh cauldron, as his sole trip to the Scottish capital brought him a memorable win upon his England debut.

“Well, yeah. I’ve only played there once and we had a great win there. I think it was one of the hundreds of storms we’ve had recently, it was that one. It’s a good memory, I remember it fondly. 

“Well I wouldn’t have put me on for a debut with 15 minutes to go for a game that was in the balance. But Eddie (Jones) took a gamble on me, and it was a great day. Other than that I don’t remember too much. I came on, George Kruis said congratulations and then I think we had a scrum and that was kind of it really. 

“Then the next thing you know you’re holding the Calcutta Cup in the changing room. Like I said it was a great memory, and one that you remember forever.”

The 2020 Six Nations trip to Murrayfield is certainly one which Earl fondly remembers, as he recalled a key involvement that saw him boost Ellis Genge over for a vital try. Earl discussed his debut victory, and how England could well utilise the win as a ‘blueprint’ to success upon their return to Twickenham this weekend.

“I was, (supporting Genge for the try) I remember that. What a pivotal moment in that game. That was a blueprint of how to win against a very good Scottish team. 

“Well I think it’s getting the nuts and bolts of your game right, from memory. I distinctly remember us box kicking a hell of a lot, and chasing really hard and scrapping for everything, certainly in our defence. 

“And then when you get the chance to win penalties, with or without the ball, making the most of that. And that’s international rugby to a ‘T’ really isn’t it. The soft touches that come around that are sometimes directed by conditions, or the way the game is refereed, or the way we or they attack. 

“But in terms of the nuts and bolts of our game that’s something we’ve been working really hard on.”

Never one to shy away from celebrating a key penalty, Earl is one of England’s most vocal players who’s passion to win is uncontainable. Excited at the opportunity to upset an expectedly hostile Scotland crowd, Earl relishes these matches and believes that there is nothing better than rising to such an occasion. Speaking on how England are preparing to tackle the daunting gauntlet of Murrayfield, Earl addressed the game plan away from home.

“We’ve got a plan, we hope, we think, we believe will get us on the right side of the result. And we as players, we’ve got to execute that. I think that’s all we can do. That’s the licence Steve’s (Borthwick) given us, he’s not expecting rabbits out of hats, he’s expecting us to play to our potential with the plan we’ve laid out as a team, and hope that’s enough. 

Steve Borthwick, Head Coach of England during the England Captains Run at Twickenham Stadium, London on 9 February 2024 (Photo: George Beck/PPAUK)

“I think you have to love it (daunting atmospheres), these are the games that you remember if you come out on the right side of the result. If you don’t love it, then you’re probably playing the wrong sport at the wrong level. So, I absolutely love it. I love going away to these amazing places and amazing cities, amazing grounds. So I’m really looking forward to it.”

Whilst England head coach Steve Borthwick did usher in a new era of England players for this year’s Six Nations, he has still retained a core group of experienced veterans that will prove pivotal in surpassing the hostile lands North of the border. Earl discussed how the more senior players in the squad will be invaluable to their objectives, and can provide guidance to the younger talents in their first experience of Murrayfield.

Jamie George, Captain of England celebrates after winning during the Six Nations Match between England and Wales at Twickenham, London on 10 February 2024 (Photo: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK)

“Yeah, there’s a resilience there, for sure. I think it’s quite a good group of experienced players in this team now, in terms of Jamie (George), George Ford, Joe Marler, Dan Cole, Ellis Genge. 

“Those guys, all different characters, but they’ve all seen all those curve balls that you’ve touched upon there. And then you’ve also got a group of lads who might not have played a load of Test rugby but have played a lot of club rugby, played in some great games, some great stadiums. 

“So I’d say the group, in terms of expectation, is probably as prepared as any to deal with anything that’s thrown at us.”

Joe Marler of England during the Six Nations Match between England and Wales at Twickenham, London on 10 February 2024 (Photo: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK)

Earl then cast his mind back again to his test debut, and how the fabled bus trip into Murrayfield can be a daunting experience for the younger England hopefuls. The trip is unlike any other, as a sea of Scotland fans surrounds the bus from all angles, and provides a frosty reception for the England players as they arrive in Edinburgh.

“It’s one of the moments that you try to soak in and now I can’t remember a thing about it! 

“But you come out and it’s great, it’s awesome that every stadium is different in terms of exposure to the fans, and this is probably one of the most exposed you get. 

“It’s brilliant.  Some boys will soak it in, some won’t, but it’s an atmosphere you savour.”

“There’s multiple occasions I can think of really where we’re taken a step forward, and others where we’re shied away. You learn from all those experiences. And yeah, speaking to some of the boys, some boys haven’t been there (Murrayfield), and have asked what to expect etcetera. I’ve only been there once but I’ve played in some pretty hostile places, so anything you can learn from that is vital.”

“Yeah, I think it has to be (confident) otherwise you’re going to get swallowed up by it all. We know how loud it’s going to be in favour of the Scottish, you’ve got to love it and you’ve got to find energy within the group. 

“You’ve got to lean on that experience of the players that we’ve got, who have been there and won there, but also not been there and won there, and who also have that youthful exuberance that we talk about, that carefree spirit. we’ll tap into both I’m sure.”

Earl believes that this resolved mentality, can trace it’s roots back to Saracens. The multi-time Premiership and European champions are one of the clubs that rugby fans ‘love to hate’, which creates a tough exterior for the players at the Stone X. With such a strong contingent of Saracens players in the England set-up, the likes of Earl, Jamie George, Maro Itoje and Elliot Daly can harness this toughened behaviour and assist the others as they become the villains up in Scotland.

Maro Itoje of England and Jamie George of England celebrates after winning during the Summer Nations Series Match between England and Wales at Twickenham, London on 12 Aug 2023 (Photo: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK)

“Yeah, definitely. I think there’s definitely a lesson to be learned there and experiences to be taken. We love it, as a club, and we’ll continue to love it. We as players don’t get the opportunity to say much to the crowd, so the way we can speak to the crowd is through our performance. 

“And that’s something we’ve always prided ourselves on at the club, and something we’ll continue to pride ourselves on as a nation.”

Amongst England’s most versatile weapons, the back-row could run out an equally strong performance on a flank or at number eight this Saturday. Earl prides himself on his versatility across the back of the England scrum, and explained how his adaptability can benefit the younger players that are still learning the ropes in the pack.

Ben Earl of England during the Six Nations Match between England and Wales at Twickenham, London on 10 February 2024 (Photo: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK)

“Well, I hope it’s useful. But it’s not something you think about, but being a back-rower you’re involved in almost every facet of the game in some shape or form. So the current positioning feeds into that. 

“Then you have to be prepared for changes from substitutions, you have to be prepared for those situations. For example if Chandler (Cunningham-South) comes in then he will play eight in some situations and I will play eight in others. So it’s about being adaptable and preparing in the best ways, so that come game-time you go ‘right, I’m this and this’ and you’re just ready to go.”

Chandler Cunningham-South of England Mens U20 during the U20 Six Nations Championship Match between England U20 and Scotland U20 at The Stoop. 3 Feb Photo: Phil Mingo/PPAUK

An equally adaptable talent, George Martin is eyeing up his return to the England squad this weekend. The Leicester Tigers man has spent a prolonged time out with a knee injury, and England fans are eager to see the hard-hitting forward bring the fight to the Scotland players. Predominantly a lock, Martin has also shown strength in the back-row, and Earl expressed how impressed he has been with his versatile yet often unreadable teammate.

“He’s fascinating to play against, he’s nails, he’s rock-solid, a big old boy. He looks at you, he could be saying anything and his facial expression doesn’t change. So he’s one of those who’s very unflustered. Very much out of that Leicester Tigers mould. And it’s another one we’re very excited to have him back.”

George Martin of England (Leicester Tigers) skips the tackle of Zach Mercer of England (Montpellier HŽrault Rugby) during the an England Rugby Training session at the Brighton College, Sussex on the 19th June 2023 – PHOTO: Micah Crook/PPAUK

I’ve never seen George laugh, so I can’t answer that. He’s just so dialled in when he’s training, or preparing for games. I’ve really enjoyed playing with George over the last couple of seasons, and actually playing against George, because he’s one of the best operators around. So I’m looking forward to him doing his best stuff this weekend.”