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Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Ben Earl eager for England to right old wrongs against Scotland

Scotland may be smarting from the injustice of their defeat by France but Ben Earl insists England also have a point to prove in their Calcutta Cup clash.

Replays suggested Scotland had scored a legitimate stoppage-time try at Murrayfield on Saturday but as they failed to show clear grounding, protocol dictated it should not stand and Les Bleus escaped with a 20-16 win.

The decision prevented them from entering round three of the Guinness Six Nations with an unbeaten record to match that of Steve Borthwick’s team, who crept past Italy and Wales to stay in Grand Slam contention.

What was previously a comfortable Six Nations fixture for England has since been turned on its head by losing the three most recent meetings – and Earl wants to see that addressed in Edinburgh on February 24.

Finn Russell (middle) speaks to assistant referee Nika Amashukeli as they wait for a TMO decision on the Scotland try that was not given
Finn Russell (middle) speaks to assistant referee Nika Amashukeli as they wait for a TMO decision on the Scotland try that was not given (Jane Barlow/PA)

“Scotland are a very proud rugby nation, they’ve got some great players, some great individuals,” Earl said.

“We’ve never had an easy game against them and last time we played them at Twickenham, the first game of last year, we lost.

“We’ve got to right some wrongs and so we’re really looking forward to going up there.”

England’s underwhelming performances in the opening two rounds have hardly set the tournament alight, but in coming from behind to dispatch Italy and Wales they are continuing to show a knack for digging themselves out of trouble.

After a 31-point lead had been thrown away against Scotland in 2019, Borthwick’s predecessor Eddie Jones compared the team’s response to pressure to “hand grenades in the back of a jeep” that “go off”.

But in the World Cup warm-up game against Wales at Twickenham in August, and at the tournament itself, they have displayed the ability to roll with the punches – and come back firing.

“We feel we’ve got a good game to fall back on when things are tight. We can squeeze games out and find a way to win. We know we can win from almost any position,” Earl said.

“When our backs were against the wall against Wales, we got together and said ‘look, it feels like we’re not getting the rub of the green here from the ref and/or the context of the game, so we need to almost bunker down or come out swinging in a way’.

“Other England teams in previous regimes, we might have gone into our shells and reverted to an individual focus, but we were collected and aligned in our messaging and in our next actions, so we were really pleased.

“The Italy game was a step in the right direction and Wales was another step in the right direction, so who knows where we can take it.”

England’s growing resilience has coincided with Earl’s rise to starting number eight and the marauding Saracen, who broke four tackles to cross against Wales, is revelling in the independence he has been given by attack coach Richard Wigglesworth.

“Richard has been really clear with me in terms of giving me a bit of a free role in terms of where I pop up,” Earl said.

“Against Italy I carried a bit more off nine than I did against Wales. But in terms of where I’m at, I’m loving playing for this team.”

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