en Earl says with a laugh: “It was written in the stars, wasn’t it?” Then his tone becomes more serious as he adds: “On reflection, there’s no other game I’d rather have first”.
Earl is talking about tonight’s Premiership opener, his first match in a Saracens shirt since February 2020. Almost inevitably it comes at Bristol, where he spent more than a season on loan as Saracens shed weight for their season in the naughty corner (in this case, the Championship).
That Earl is excited to be back is evident. “I’ve loved it,” he tells Standard Sport. “It’s almost like that first day back of school feeling, where you know all the faces and the relationships, you just get them going again.
“It is the same place but [the club] has learnt a lot, it’s been humbled. It now has a new lease of life.”
That is not to say Earl and the other Saracens who went out on loan during the Championship season are ungrateful for their experiences.
Nick Tompkins and the injured Alex Goode returned at the end of last season, while Earl (at open‑side), Alex Lozowski and Nick Isiekwe all make their comebacks tonight. Max Malins, who was with Earl in Bristol, will have to wait a couple more weeks because of injury.
“The opportunity Max and I had for a year was invaluable,” he says. “We both said we left as academy graduates with potential. I’d like to think we return a more polished product.”
He believes he returns more “mature” and “battle-hardened”. Now it is time to show how much he has improved.
“We [the loanees] know how fortunate we are in terms of the club giving us that opportunity,” he says. “We have spoken about our guilt about missing those tough days in the Championship, days where motivation could have been low. It’s time to give back.”
Earl feels he has a bit to prove. He spent “a really nice re-centring summer” just relaxing, It was his longest break for years because he was not involved with England.
“I was available,” he said. “They wanted to try new faces, [England coach] Eddie [Jones] and I have spoken about where he thought my game was at, and what was best for me.”
The summer off, he says, meant he had “never been more motivated” to get back on the field. “It’s a new beginning for me,” he adds. “I hope I can get back into the conversation.”
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