Ben Earl has been slammed for celebrating penalties but the England back rower is not for turning, as he insists: ‘I don’t care. I won’t stop. It helps me and the team’
- Ben Earl has become synonymous with extravagant celebrations in matches
- However, he has insisted he won’t let criticism or social media mockery stop him
- Earl has gone from being on England’s fringes to standing on the verge of a start
- Latest Rugby World Cup 2023 news, including fixtures, live scores and results
Just like England’s leading goalkeeper, Ben Earl is becoming known for extravagant celebrations during matches – and he won’t let criticism or social media mockery force him to stop.
The Saracens back-rower has gone from being a fringe figure in the England set-up to standing on the verge of a starting role in Saturday’s World Cup opener against Argentina in Marseilles.
Having been included in the tournament squad by head coach Steve Borthwick, Earl enhanced his status further during the troubled warm-up campaign last month, but he managed to aggravate a lot of people in the process.
His fired-up, fist-pumping response to minor victories in a losing cause – penalties or turnovers or even crooked opposition lineout throws – drew scorn, but also plenty of humour. Earl has been amused by some of the myriad responses.
So what’s been the most memorable? ‘There’s a video of Jordan Pickford – something he did at the weekend,’ he tells Mail Sport, of a celebration by the Everton and England keeper.
England back-rower Ben Earl is becoming known for his extravagant celebrations in matches
Earl was recently tagged in a video of a similarly exuberant reaction from Jordan Pickford
‘Someone tagged me into that saying, “When Ben Earl produces a try-saving tackle in the last minute”. There’s been lots of stuff like that. It’s all been very friendly and until someone really takes exception to it and gets insulted by it, it won’t be changing.’
The criticism from Mail Sport columnist Sir Clive Woodward and many others within the sport has not fazed him. He is relaxed about the backlash, saying: ‘I don’t care about any of that. I get sent it by school mates and I just think it’s genius – they send me people’s responses and they send me memes and whatever. I like all that.
‘It’s something I do which can seem bizarre to people who don’t know me. When I was growing up, I watched team-mates doing it and I’ve taken it on board. It helps me and it helps the team stay engaged in whatever that moment is.
‘Test rugby is about such small margins and if that (celebrating) is going to give Courtney Lawes or Billy Vunipola or George Ford a quick bump, that’s great. If those guys see me engaged, they get engaged themselves, so it’s only going to have a positive effect on our team. Until someone tells me it doesn’t, I won’t be stopping.
‘It has been used in jest a few times (within the England squad), but I think everyone appreciates it. It’s not just me – unfortunately, there are a few of us doing it who are all from the same club! But it’s not something I’m going to be changing because it helps me and it helps my team.’
Earl is a dynamic presence on the field, a confident and assertive character, but there are other sides to him. As a former literature student, he is an enthusiastic lover of books – proper, printed books. Reading has been a release from all the hot-weather training since England arrived in the north of France late last week.
Criticism will not force players to back down over celebrating small decisions
Confident and assertive Earl is a dynamic presence on the field but there are other sides to him
‘We got sent through a care package from our families on the day we arrived and mine was just a shoebox of books, which was nice,’ he says. ‘I got it from my old man. He loves it. These are actual books (not on e-readers). We’re both purists, you could say. I have lent one to Max (Malins) my room-mate, and hopefully he’ll get into it.
‘I am reading The Poet by Michael Connelly. They’re all murder mysteries and thrillers – that’s all I read. Nice, peaceful bedtime reading! My dad will have to bring some more when he comes out. I’m one down already and we’ve been here just under a week.’
In that time, Earl has already enjoyed one notable victory, on a local golf course, where he and club-mate Owen Farrell beat Marcus Smith and Ollie Lawrence, for vital points in a ‘mini league’ within the squad. He has enjoyed bike rides to explore a seaside town which has embraced the visitors from across the Channel – so often cast as sporting enemies.
‘Everyone has been so welcoming,’ says Earl. ‘The reception has been fantastic and the amount of free coffees we’ve had in town has been crazy!
‘Hopefully everyone loves having us here and we love being here. We feel like the town is backing us, at least until we play France!’
Having earned an A grade in A-level French, Earl has been brushing off the linguistic rust and is feeling at home here – just as he is now in the England squad, after so many years of striving in vain for Test recognition.
After earning an A grade in A-level French, Earl has been brushing off any linguistic rust
He made his debut at the start of the 2020 Six Nations, coming off the bench against Scotland at Murrayfield, but had to wait until last month for an elusive first start, despite titles and medals, awards and plaudits continuing to come his way at club level.
‘I am thankful for those times that I’ve had where I’ve been sticking my hand up for selection and not getting the rub of the green,’ he says.
‘It’s taught me what it’s like on the other side. I feel like I’m a bit more rounded as an individual now. I’ve got a bit of perspective.
‘I had moments of irrationality about it, for sure. That bucket of gold seemed to keep being pushed further and further away. Maybe two years ago, I didn’t think this would happen, but I’ve been lucky and I’ve worked hard.
‘I’m thankful to my family and to my club as well, because they have kept driving me. At times it would have been easy for me to sulk and moan and say, “Why me?”. But Saracens pushed me on and I’ve probably become a little less emotional about it over time.’
There has been plenty of emotion around England lately, of the negative kind.
Borthwick’s side have been stumbling towards this World Cup in a state of spiralling disarray as three defeats in the Six Nations were followed by Summer Series losses to Wales, Ireland and Fiji. The latter result has left public and pundits alike fearing the worst, so can Earl and Co shock all the doubters?
Steve Borthwick’s side have stumbled into the World Cup but Earl believes they can surprise
‘Well, we’re going to have to,’ he says candidly. ‘We have not played how we’ve wanted and not got the results we’ve wanted, but it’s been a long time since England have been underdogs and it has brought the best out of our group. It takes away a little bit of the pressure and the burden. We feel unburdened going into this tournament.’
Earl is convinced that having backs to the wall will forge a defiant English fighting spirit, adding: ‘We’ve got a lot of players who’ve had real adversity, whether it’s injuries, individual or collective experiences, so I would say it’s going to bring the best out of us. But it has to. We need to start delivering results.’
On a personal level, Earl would like to emulate an old school friend, England batsman Zak Crawley, by being part of sporting success and drama which captures the supporters’ imagination.
He watched the Ashes series avidly and says: ‘It was amazing. A few of our boys know that team quite well now through social stuff and work stuff.
‘We’ve seen how the way a team can play can get a nation behind them and the good feeling around that. We have taken a lot of inspiration from that and it’s been touched upon a lot. Ben Stokes and the like have been mentioned a lot in our meetings.
‘We realise how impressive Zak and the rest of those guys were in that series and how they created a good feeling around both the team and the sport itself. That’s our job. If we can inspire one child to take up rugby and want to play for England, then we’ve done our job.’
Source: Read Full Article