Ben Earl refuses to reach for excuses as he prepares for another Premiership Final still no closer to his first England start.
Three years on from his international debut the Saracens back row has 15 caps and has been the outstanding player in the Gallagher Premiership for the past two seasons. Yet despite a change of England coach he appears no closer to a starting position under Steve Borthwick than he was when Eddie Jones was in charge.
Earl, 25, works closely with ex-team mate turned sports psychologist Calum Clark and regularly compares notes with cricket pal Zak Crawley, who knows how it feels to be in and out of an England team.
But he said: “While I lean on a few people at the end of the day it’s my problem and I‘ve got to fix it.
“The moment you start looking for excuses, the moment you start ‘I’m just unlucky, my face doesn’t fit’, is probably the moment you give somebody the reason to drop you.
“I’ve kind of got to stay with it,” added Earl, whose battle with Sale opposite number Tom Curry will be key to Saturday’s result. “Steve was unbelievably positive about my work in the Six Nations.
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“Unfortunately, selection didn’t always go my way, but I’m trying to stay positive and put my best foot forward in these big games, which are probably the ones he’s looking at the most.”
This time last year Earl, who made his Test debut in 2020, was named the Premiership’s player of the season.
It cut no ice with Jones who did not pick him in the autumn despite continued outstanding form for league-leading Saracens.
“Ben has played some phenomenal stuff and must be incredibly frustrated,” observed Irish legend turned pundit Brian O’Driscoll.
When Jones was sacked after four November Tests in which England managed to beat only Japan, O’Driscoll ventured that a change of boss would give Earl a “new lease of life”.
He did return to the squad under Borthwick and made the bench against Scotland and Italy but that was as good as it got.
“It’s been an interesting season for me,” said the Surrey star. “I’ve played as consistently as I did last year, which was a big challenge of mine as there’s no point winning some of the accolades I did and not backing it up.
“Selfishly, the elephant in the room is that I wish I could have played a bit more for England. For whatever reason, I didn’t.
“I can’t lie and say that I haven’t been giving it some thought, but the moment you stop performing you give someone an easy reason not to pick you.
“You look at how competitive my position is, it always feels that the person who slips up first is going to be the one that misses out.
“That’s a big thing for me once we get the weekend done; rest up and be rejuvenated for what will be a tough summer.”