Ben Earl is looking to help Saracens regain the Gallagher Premiership title and put down an early World Cup selection marker at Twickenham on Saturday.
Saracens flanker Earl has been among the league’s most consistent performers, highlighted by him winning Premiership player of the season last year.
But while his England career is into double figures in terms of caps, he has made just two Test appearances since March 2021.
Earl’s experience of the Guinness Six Nations this term was restricted to a combined 52 minutes off the bench against Scotland and Italy, with back-row starting berths in Steve Borthwick’s team being fought out by the likes of Ben Curry, Jack Willis and Lewis Ludlam.
A Premiership final puts himself firmly in the spotlight, though, ahead of England’s World Cup countdown towards France later this year gathering pace.
“The moment you start looking for excuses, the moment you start thinking I am just unlucky, my face doesn’t fit, is probably the moment you give somebody the reason to drop you,” Earl said.
“I’ve kind of got to stay with it. Steve was unbelievably positive about my work in the Six Nations.
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“Unfortunately, selection didn’t always go my way, but I am trying to stay positive and put my best foot forward in these big games, which are probably the games he is looking at the most.
“I think I have played as consistently as I did last year, which was a big challenge of mine.
“There is no point winning some of the accolades I did last year and not backing it up. Selfishly, the elephant in the room is that I wish I could have played a bit more for England in that Six Nations campaign.
“For whatever reason, I didn’t, and I have learnt a lot from that. I am looking forward to going again, putting my best foot forward in these big games, which has been a big focus of mine.
“The moment that you stop performing, you give someone an easy reason not to pick you. That is a big thing.
“On the flip-side, if I get a chance to play a Test match this summer, it’s got to be good.
“You look at how competitive my position is, it always feels that the person who slips up first is going to be the one that misses out.”
Saracens are back at English rugby headquarters a year after Freddie Burns’ late drop-goal saw Leicester crowned champions, leaving Earl and his team-mates deflated.
But victory over Sale, who have reached a first Premiership final since 2006, would give Saracens a sixth league crown in the past 13 seasons.
“It would mean everything to me,” Earl added. “The amount of times I have carried bags for games like these when I was a bit younger, I have always wanted to celebrate a win.
“Coming a little bit short last year has only made this group hungrier and me hungrier. To win the league after such a long slog with your boyhood club would be everything, really.
“In the 12 months I’ve learnt a huge amount in terms of getting myself right mentally, and what I can give the team if I am right. Hopefully, I can show that on Saturday.”