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'Two good men': Bristol's verdict on loanees now back at Saracens

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Dan Mullan/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

An intriguing aspect of Friday night’s new season Gallagher Premiership clash between Bristol and newly promoted Saracens is whether players from the London club who were on loan last season at the Bears have sufficiently given Mark McCall the inside track on how to dismantle Pat Lam’s side. Both Max Malins and Ben Earl enjoyed a wonderful time at Bristol last season. 


The 24-year-old Malins earned all eight of his England caps – including two starts – during a year where he played 13 times in the Premiership for Lam. Meanwhile, the 23-year-old Earl won ten of his 13 England caps during a period where he made 15 Premiership appearances for Bristol. 

Now the question is can their inside knowledge regarding what made the Bears tick en route to last season’s table-topping finish be of use to McCall and co when the Londoners make their return after a year away from the top flight against an opposition beaten in the semi-finals by eventual winners Harlequins.

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What happened when RugbyPass went behind the scenes at Pat lam’s Bristol
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What happened when RugbyPass went behind the scenes at Pat lam’s Bristol

It’s an insider situation that will only be repeated when Saracens play Northampton who had Nick Isiekwe on loan – other loanees such as Alex Goode, Alex Lozowski and Nick Tompkins played outside England last term. But it will be intriguing to see what first transpires when Saracens visit Ashton Gate with an XV containing Earl but not Malins, who is still recovering from his summer series shoulder ligament injury versus the USA.

“Those boys came in to play the Bears way, we didn’t play the Max Malins or the Ben Earl way, they came in and excelled because they got to know what our game was and they got a chance to experience and play it,” said Lam when asked to talk about the two Saracens loanees he had on the Bristol books. Ahead of Friday’s game, the coach has signed a five-year contract extension that will keep him at Ashton Gate until 2028. 

“Max got an England cap and Ben, we saw what they did. If anything that is the key here – we didn’t become the Ben Earl or Max, they came into our environment, enjoyed it, played it, played a part in it and we continue on our journey and that is the whole thing, there is a quote up here: players enter the rugby programme and they exit as better people and as better players. 


“Everyone is going to come and everyone is going to go and our job is that they enjoy the journey along the way by the way we play, the way we do things off the field, on the field, and they had a great time here. Two good men. I really enjoyed my time with them and we will follow their careers closely because they are not just rugby players now, they are people that we really know well.” 


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