A year has passed but Ben Earl remembers it like yesterday.
One moment shooting for the stars, playing for the best club side in Europe, bound for England recognition.
The next thrown into a sea of uncertainty by the decision to kick Saracens out of the Premiership for multiple salary cap breaches.
“That day there was anger at the situation, wanting someone to be accountable,” he recalled.
“There was a good deal of worry. Would the club implode from the inside, would people lose motivation with all the heat coming from the outside?
“There was confusion. Am I staying or going, are people I care about going to lose jobs, are lives going to be affected because of this?
“They were, unfortunately.”
Earl’s world was turned on its head. He was loaned out for a year to Bristol, then Covid-19 shut down life as we all knew it.
Yet such is his ability that, for all the disruption and upheaval, he has not taken a backwards step and could well make his first England start this Saturday against Scotland.
“It has been a tricky 12 months with all that’s going on, that’s obvious,” said the 23-year-old.
“In the first lockdown we were on 75% pay, unsure when and where we would play again, whether some clubs were even going to survive.
“But I'm very fortunate. I’ve had some amazing moments on the pitch, shared in some great matches.”
Consider the stats. In 2020, a year of unprecedented turmoil, Earl played 21 matches for Saracens, Bristol and England, losing only three.
He finished joint top try scorer in the Premiership with 11 and won the European Challenge Cup with Bristol.
He appeared eight times off the bench for England without defeat and lifted both the Six Nations and Autumn Nations Cup.
So utterly has life changed in 12 months that his debut against Scotland in storm-battered Edinburgh is a distant memory to many.
But not to Earl, who recalls a “real whirlwind of a day in all senses of the word – the stormiest conditions I’ve ever played rugby in.
“I remember sitting on the bench, longing to get on but thinking I’m never going to because the game is so slow, it's a grind, no-one is really tired.”
With the scores locked at 3-3 and 15 minutes to play his chance arrived. On he went, England forced a scrum and there was Earl helping drive Ellis Genge over for the decisive try.
Playing for table-topping Bristol has only advanced his game yet he insists his upbringing, first at Sevenoaks, then Saracens, means there is no chance of him getting carried away.
“You start getting ahead of yourself at Sarries and you’re rightly brought down pretty quickly,” he said.
“I look at what guys like Owen (Farrell), Maro (Itoje), Mako (Vunipola) and Jamie (George) can do on a rugby pitch and realise I still have an awful lot to learn.”
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