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England’s long autumn has just begun but Ben Earl is confident they will avoid suffering cabin fever in their bubble environment over the coming weeks.
Eddie Jones’ squad gathered in their entirety for the first time this week, bolstered by reinforcements from Gallagher Premiership finalists Exeter and Wasps to enable preparations for Saturday’s Six Nations finale against Italy to begin in earnest.
The players are based at a hotel in Teddington and not permitted to leave the bubble except for pre-planned authorised training breaks or medical reasons, but they have access to a state of the art games room.
The trip to Rome will be followed by a break week before the four-Test Autumn Nations Cup begins.
“We have a few social secs who will try to put on some stuff, “ said Earl, the Saracens flanker who is on loan at Bristol.
“The hotel has been brilliant and there’s not really any cabin fever flying around; we’ve only been here for a couple of weeks so I guess watch this space. As long as we can be sensible with it that’s the key.
“By and large everyone’s really enjoying it. We’re getting a bit more time to spend together as a squad.
“It’s kind of forced upon you because you can’t just sit on your own in your room the whole time. It’s been really good in that regard and we’ve got an amazing set-up.
“We’re just trying to enjoy each other’s company as much as we can, obviously with that there has to be a sense of responsibility and some maturity.
“I don’t think anyone’s ever washed their hands as much as they have this week, but we’re very much aware of what’s expected of us.
“Everyone’s pulling in the same direction and we can only try our best and hopefully we get our full complement of games out over the coming months.”
England’s autumn opener against the Barbarians on Sunday was cancelled when a number of the invitational club’s players broke coronavirus protocols by going out on successive nights.
“That’s a reminder of our responsibility not only to the Rugby Football Union, which has been fantastic to us in terms of getting rugby back on, but also in terms of our responsibility to the community and the game itself,” Earl said.
“Rugby needs us to perform well, to play well and to do that we’ve got to be able to get out on to the pitch.
“There’s a responsibility there on our behalf to prepare well and be as professional as we can and now Covid is always in the back of our minds in how we prepare. So far it’s been very manageable.”
Earl admits he is starting from scratch as he looks to keep his place on the bench against Italy after making his England debut against Scotland earlier in the 2020 Six Nations.
“There certainly is an expectation on me to perform like I’m an England international, whether that’s with the club or whether that’s training here,” Earl said.
“You’ve got to realise how competitive it is and to almost not put too much pressure on yourself.
“You’re only as good as your last game and those three caps that I had over the Six Nations basically count for nothing now.
“Everyone’s playing on a pretty level playing field and it’s now all about how well you can prepare for this game on Saturday and try to stick your hand up for selection.”