England exile Ben Earl voted Premiership player of the year

Not for the first time a player exiled from Eddie Jones’s England squad has been voted the Gallagher Premiership player of the year. The Saracens flanker Ben Earl, not selected at Test level for almost 15 months, has been named as the best performer in this season’s competition, pipping the Harlequins centre André Esterhuizen to the top prize.

Earl was also chosen ahead of Leicester’s Julian Montoya and the former England duo of George Ford and Danny Care, making him the latest national squad outsider to scoop the award. In recent years Sam Simmonds, Jack Willis and Danny Cipriani have all been crowned the domestic player of the season after failing to force their way into the England starting XV.

The pacy, dynamic Earl has had a wonderfully consistent season, topping the league’s tackle charts in addition to scoring eight tries and helping to steer Sarries to second place in the table. He was also impressive on loan at Bristol last season but the 24-year-old’s most recent cap for England came off the bench in Ireland in March 2021.

With two spicy Premiership semi-finals looming this weekend, Leicester’s Steve Borthwick has earned the director of rugby award, sponsored by London Pride, for guiding the Tigers to the top of the regular season table. There has also been further recognition for London Irish’s exciting young back Henry Arundell who was named Land Rover Discovery of the Season.

Saracens’s England hooker, Jamie George, meanwhile, says he and his team-mates are itching to make it back to a Twickenham final for the first time in three years. “It is something we have been thinking about for the last 18 months or so,” said George, reflecting on the eventful period which saw Saracens relegated to the Championship for breaking the salary cap. “It is where we want to be, it is where we feel most comfortable and generally it brings the best out of us.”

George also now says the club’s spell in the Championship taught him a valuable lesson about not taking his job for granted. “There were probably times throughout that season … I don’t want to come across as arrogant but you almost hit cruise control. You rely on other people around you, you think things are just going to happen. It probably came into my mindset and I’m disappointed I allowed that to happen. I’ll make sure I never let it happen again.

“The message from the start of this week was ‘We don’t need to speak, we know what the motivation is.’ The best memories I have playing for this team are winning Premiership and European finals, the time in the changing room, all that stuff. That’s what makes this team really special. Of course we’d like to replicate those times.” The Saracens’ prop Sam Wainwright has been added to Wales’s squad for the summer tour to South Africa in place of the Dragons’ Leon Brown, who has sustained a nerve injury.

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