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'He's boisterous, he's loud': The forgotten England fringe player looking to remind everyone that class is permanent

By Liam Heagney

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Nathan Earle is unfortunately used to enduring long gaps without Gallagher Premiership action for Harlequins. He initially went 16 months on the sidelines, his return from the torn ACL suffered in April 2019 getting delayed until August of last year due to the pandemic suspension of the 2019/20 season.

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Then came this winter’s setback, Earle shipping another leg injury when featuring against Racing in the December Heineken Champions Cup action. His rehab thankfully wasn’t as long on this occasion but by the time he put his hand back up for selection, he had slipped way down the pecking order at a souped-up Harlequins who had gone flying up the league following the January exit of Paul Gustard. 

Earle was given a run in the forgettable early April Challenge Cup round of 16 battering, a fixture where Harlequins essentially played their reserves and were duly hammered by Ulster. It meant the winger had no form to force his way back into the Premiership reckoning and it required an injury to finally re-open that door, his inclusion at Leicester on May 15 being his first outing in the league since the December 6 game against Gloucester. 

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The 26-year-old hinted on his return that his class is permanent, pouncing for two tries in the Welford Road loss, but it will be interesting to see whether Earle can now sustain selection with Harlequins entering the business end of their Premiership title challenge. 

So much of the current talk surrounding the London club is about the uncapped Marcus Smith and how he must now be an England pick when Eddie Jones unveils his squad for the upcoming summer series. It is a hype that Earle well knows as has also been in that fringe category touted for international honours.

He toured Argentina uncapped in 2017 while at Saracens and even post his serious ACL injury at Harlequins, he was included in an October 2020 England training squad but the highest level he has reached in his representative career was scoring against the Barbarians and it now seems a long way back to the Jones fold when you are struggling for regular selection at club level. “It was great to see him back,” said assistant Quins coach Nick Evans about the impact Earle made when he finally got a Premiership appearance after a five-month wait during which there has been speculation that he might move to France for next season with Perpignan a possible destination. 

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“He had that horror run, he had that horrendous knee injury last season. He got himself back fit and looked really dangerous and then picked up another injury. He has been on a wretched run with injury and then guys have been playing well on the wing. We had Aaron Morris, Cadan Murley, Joe Marchant, Tyrone Green playing really well and Louis Lynagh progressed out of nowhere, got given a chance and performed really well. 

“He [Earle] found it tough to get back in and it’s the competition in the squad, that is the environment you want to create. He had to bide his time and then it was great to see the opportunity that he got and he scored two good tries and finished them well. He knows he has got a lot to work on to get up to the speed of the game more but it was great to see him and he is going to have a big part of the run-in.”

Evans added his admiration for Earle’s mental toughness. “For someone like that after the injury he had… he has just had a new baby as well so we joke about the lack of sleep that he is going to have, but he is such an influence on the group. He is one of those guys that is given the role of just getting the guys up. He is boisterous, he’s loud so it is great to have him back on the field and in and around training.”

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'He's boisterous, he's loud': The forgotten England fringe player looking to remind everyone that class is permanent

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