'That's the magic of our back-row make up' - Ben Earl on competition for World Cup places and Steve Borthwick's direct approach

Ben Earl is battling for a place in England's hotly contested back-row for the Rugby World Cup
©Steve Haag

Ben Earl has revealed that Steve Borthwick's personal touch when delivering news to his players has been appreciated by the squad as the Saracens flanker looks to nail down his place in England's World Cup plans.

Four years ago under Eddie Jones, players who didn't make the cut for the 2019 World Cup learnt of their fate via WhatsApp but the anxious wait for a notification has been replaced by a more direct approach by the current England boss.

Earl has already seen two of his back-row colleagues released by Borthwick with Sam Underhill and Zach Mercer both departing camp thus far but with Tom Curry, Alex Dombrandt, Lewis Ludlam, Tom Pearson, Jack and Tom Willis and the returning Billy Vunipola all in the mix, there is no time for the 25-year-old to rest on his laurels ahead of the squad announcement on August 7th.

"With Steve, it has been very much personal and that has been great," said Earl. "I know a lot of players have enjoyed that side of it and not having to stay up late at night waiting to be added to a WhatsApp group, which I know a few people have experienced. That has been a really nice change. Obviously, we are all dying to be involved but if it’s not your day, it’s not your day and then you have got to crack on."

Competition for places for any major tournament is always fierce but how Borthwick will stitch together his back-row between now and England's World Cup opener against Argentina on September 9th will be fascinating.

Premiership winner Earl will be hoping to stake his own claim in England's upcoming warm-up game against Wales on August 5th - with the squad announcement two days later - and the Saracens forward is currently relishing the battle for a seat on the plane to France.

"Within our structured gameplan, there is still massive scope to be the player you want to be," Earl said. "That’s the magic of our back-row make up. There is not one player who is the same as another. Every player has a strength and we are all window-shopping, picking each little bit from each other and picking one another’s brains.

"The amount of experiences that the back-rowers have had this year is unbelievable. Jack Willis won the Top 14, Lewis Ludlam captained his club, Tom Pearson could have been player of the season in the Premiership and then you have Billy Vunipola and Alex Dombrandt, who have unbelievable international experience.

"Everyone is offering their little bit as best they can. There is obviously an elephant in the room with the competition, but it’s the healthiest and best environment I’ve been in.

"I guess not many nations will have our competition. In 2019, Sam Underhill was probably one of the players of the tournament so that just goes to show how competitive it is. Sam trained brilliantly and it was a shock to us all that he was no longer involved. That really struck home with us.”