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Rising stars: Ben Earl

Rising stars: Ben Earl

With a try on his first Aviva Premiership Rugby start against the defending champions, Ben Earl showed he is more than capable of hanging with the big boys.

The 20-year-old Saracens academy product punctured the Exeter Chiefs defence and wheeled away from Phil Dollman and Olly Woodburn to slide under the posts to cap a memorable performance.

It was one of many highlights from a breakthrough season for Earl, who also captained his side in the Anglo-Welsh Cup and came off the bench against Clermont in the European Champions Cup.

The openside flanker has long been considered a star in the making but he appeared to step up a gear in the 2017-18 campaign as he went from strength to strength.

His impressive season saw him receive a nomination for the Anglo-Welsh Cup Breakthrough Player Award, while he also put pen to paper on a new contract extension with Saracens.

A call-up to England’s squad for the tour of South Africa followed, with Earl one of eight uncapped players to get the nod from head coach Eddie Jones for the three-Test series.

For Earl, who began his rugby career at Sevenoaks RFC, it was the latest in a long line of international honours, having already represented his country at under-16, under-18 and under-20 level.

He was a member of the England Under-20s side that won a Grand Slam in the 2017 Six Nations, as well as scoring a try in the World Rugby U20 Championship final defeat to New Zealand in Georgia.

The back-rower went on to captain his country in this year’s Six Nations Under-20s Championship, once again showing his try-scoring prowess as England finished second.

His call-up to the senior side for the summer tour was further proof that his prestigious talent is starting to come to fruition, with big things expected of him for club and country.

While he had to bide his time at Saracens before being handed a first start, Earl has been able to learn from the best as he found himself working with the likes of Schalk Burger.

But he now presents serious competition to the Springbok legend and it will not be long before he adds to the 16 appearances he has made for Saracens since making his senior debut in 2016.

Speaking about the Earl’s potential, Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall said: “Ben is part of a fantastic crop of exciting young players coming through our academy.

“He has been at the club since he was 14-years-old and his development this season has been hugely encouraging.”

Earl, who studies comparative literature at Queen Mary University, certainly has all the attributes to follow in the footsteps of fellow former academy graduates Maro Itoje and Nick Isiekwe.

He has already proven he can be a pest at the breakdown, dominant in defence and a strong ball-carrier, with the pace and quick hands to cause defenders a host of problems.

And with the confidence and experience he will gain in South Africa, Earl looks more and more likely to be the future of the black and red seven jersey for many years to come.

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