Former England U20 flanker Ben Earl is set to make his debut in the Premiership following a long injury list to Saracens backrow options.
Saracens head into two weeks of Anglo-Welsh Cup action following a loss to top of the table rivals Exeter Chiefs, failing to register a losing bonus point at Sandy Park over the weekend.
After slipping down to third place whilst still nursing the gaps left by injuries and international call-ups, there is one significant piece of good news to add a silver lining to the European Champions' cloud. Former England U20 captain Ben Earl earned a rare start at openside flanker against Exeter, impressing while making the most of the chances afforded him following injuries to Schalk Burger, Calum Clark, Michael Rhodes, Billy Vunipola and Joel Conlon.
The 20-year-old will have headed back East on Sunday evening in low spirits having suffered a loss, however, the consolation of an impressive performance across the board for 77-minutes is nothing to be sniffed at. The comparative literature university student was competitive at the breakdown, physical in the contact area and showed a pair of clean heels and tremendous acceleration for a well-taken try in the 32nd minute.
Quite the performance for a young lad yet to hit 21. Saracens should feel fortunate to have such a promising talent on their hands following the early retirement of openside Will Fraser last year. Earl looks likely to be the future of the black and red seven jersey for quite some time.
That being said, the arrival of 17-times-capped Scottish international Blair Cowan from London Irish on a short-term deal will ensure Earl is not short of competition for a starting role. Cowan has proved he can be a pest at the breakdown, dominant in defence and an imposing force when carrying, though it must be said he hasn't managed to quite reach his own high standards so far this season.
Saracens' Director of Rugby Mark McCall would be wise to keep Earl in the starting XV wherever possible, with the chance of yet another young Academy graduate following in the footsteps of Maro Itoje and Nick Isiekwe.
Springbok legend Burger will eventually be leaving Saracens and Clark is currently out for three months. The more time Earl can amass in a Saracens starting jersey, the fiercer their forward unit can remain during the international periods.
Earl may be about to become a name hot on the lips of even the most casual Premiership-viewing households as opposed to being familiar to just the Saracens faithful and the most well versed English supporters.
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