Ben Earl’s England finish U20 Six Nations on a high despite falling short

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COVENTRY, ENGLAND - MARCH 16: Ben Earl of England scores a try during the Natwest Under 20's Six Nations between England U20 and Ireland U20 at Ricoh Arena on March 16, 2018 in Coventry, England. (Photo by Henry Browne - RFU/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

It was a matter of 49 points that France accrued throughout the U20 Six Nations that separated them and England in first and second place. However, Ben Earl’s England will take the lessons learnt into the World Championships after finishing the Six Nations on a high.

In hindsight, England’s shock defeat in Edinburgh ultimately paid the price of successive grand slam titles. But England are a young squad and will take the learnings to improve without dwelling on the negatives.

It’s clear that head coach Steve Bates has instilled an ethos into his England side that allows them to play to their strengths. This was evident in backing up the defeat in Edinburgh with an assured victory in France.

Interview with Ben Earl – England Captain

No one exudes that better than captain Ben Earl. With a fantastic performance against Ireland, the Saracens back-row knows his side will come back stronger for it.

”We don’t just look at this week, we look at the eight weeks as a whole and I think we’ve learnt a hell of a lot.

”[We’ve] learnt what it takes to play at a different level in terms of test rugby” added Earl.

”International rugby is different to club rugby and you’ve got to be street smart. Winning’s not always pretty – go back to Italy in that first week and compare that to what we’ve done [against Ireland] and it’s night and day.”

There was a stark contrast in the way that England approached the Scotland game and how they finished the competition against Ireland.

In all four of England’s wins they won with maximum points. They played the games at the pace that allows them to get on the front foot.

The English let the occasion get to them in Edinburgh, with the hype of such a fixture not helping. But when the pressure told – needing a big bonus point win to have any chance of winning the championship, they looked at ease at the Ricoh Arena.

”It was a full 80 minute performance. We spoke about backing up last week and we’ve do that in a slightly different vein, so we’re pretty happy.

”[Against Scotland] the lads put in a 50 minute performance and in that last 30 minutes, let their foot off the gas. Whether that was complacency, I’m not sure.

”It’s not the coaches and us, it’s us as a collective and it’s not just what we’ve learnt, it’s what the coaches have learnt as well.”

Gabriel Ibitoye – Man of the match
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Man of the match Gabriel Ibitoye was one of England’s players of the Championship. The Harlequins winger touched down once, set up Ben White for a length of the field try as well as having one ruled out.

On Ibitoye, Earl added: “We know he’s quality and we know he’s got that in the bank. It’s just a question of us seeing that more often.

”He knows what he’s got to do and he’s got the carrot on the stick in terms of the England (senior) squad. He’s just got to keep doing what he’s doing and making sure it’s fitting in with the side aswell.”

England will review their campaign before regrouping to prepare for the World Championships in May.

A warm up fixture against South Africa, before opening their World Championship against Argentina on 30 May should hold them in good stead for going one better than in 2017.

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