Ben Earl: I bulked up to help England – but it may hinder my ability to go 80 minutes

Ben Earl during the Six Nations match between England and Wales
Ben Earl took advantage of a six-week lay-off after surgery to add ‘lean mass’ to his frame - Getty Images/David Rogers

Ben Earl has added bulk to aid his development as a Test-level No 8, even if the additional weight could cause him to huff and puff towards the end of matches.

Earl surged off the base of a five-metre scrum and through a gaggle of defenders to score England’s first try against Wales at the weekend. The 26-year-old, who won his 27th cap on Saturday, revealed that minor knee surgery in November had given him a six-week lay-off and a chance to ponder how he could build on an excellent World Cup.

Carrying in heavy traffic, Earl suggested, is one area he has targeted for improvement.

“Well I had that time out injured, so I had a bit of a think about what I needed in terms of contributing to this team, me as a player,” he said.

“I’m about two kilos heavier than I was probably during the World Cup. That might have a knock-on effect in certain bits, perhaps the ability to run at about 79 minutes. But I’ve put on a bit of lean mass, [it’s] not too different.”

Earl’s try was his second for England and his first at Twickenham. It was more impressive for the fact that his side were down to 14 men, with both Ollie Chessum and Ethan Roots in the sin-bin. England deployed Sam Underhill at lock and Tommy Freeman at blindside flanker.

England's Ben Earl scores the team's first try during the Six Nations match against Wales
Earl touches down for England's first try against Wales - Getty Images/Adrian Dennis

“I think the ball popped out of the scrum as well, so I don’t know I managed that,” Earl added.

“I was just trying to get as wide as I could, and the next thing I knew, the try-line was below me, so I just reached out and touched down. I was buzzing, I think it’s my first try at Twickenham, so I was pretty pleased. It’s contributed to a winning cause, so yeah, really pleased.”

After praising the progress of Felix Jones’s defensive system, Earl also outlined how England have given him a roaming remit while they are in possession.

“Richard Wigglesworth has been really clear with me in terms of giving me a bit of a free role of where I pop up,” he said. “Last week, for example, I probably carried a bit more off nine than I did this week. But in terms of where I’m at, I’m loving playing for this team, I love this team.”

England will head to Edinburgh in round three bidding to improve a streak of one win in six Calcutta Cup encounters, which stretches back to a comprehensive loss in 2018.

No blitz let-up despite Russell threat

Earl has featured in three of these Anglo-Scottish tussles, coming off the bench in 2020, 2021 and 2023. He would appear to be in line for a first Calcutta Cup start a week on Saturday, and could face Andy Christie, a good friend and Saracens team-mate.

Admitting that England will be out to “right some wrongs” against Scotland, Earl finished by acknowledging the threat of Finn Russell. The aggressive blitz introduced by Jones will not relent despite Russell’s ability to impart width.

“What it [facing Russell] does is narrow your focus,” Earl said. “So you go: ‘Look, we’re going to go back to our fundamentals in terms of what we’re going after in defence, and if we get stung we get stung, and we’ll go harder next time.’

“In a way that kind of frees us up, and we’ll look forward to preparing to play against someone like him. He’s one of the best players in the world, and those are the guys you want to play against.”