Scarlets second row George Earle: My biggest ever match
SOUTH AFRICAN second row George Earle is preparing himself for the biggest game of his career on Saturday as the Scarlets look to re-ignite their Heineken Cup challenge against defending champions Leinster.
Earle is relishing his first taste of European competition and believes the arrival of the three-time winners will be up there with any match he ever played in his homeland.
“It is a crucial game, probably the biggest in the pool for us,” said the former Cheetahs lock. “For me, it is the biggest I have ever played.”
Earle was one of four Scarlets forwards to make their Heineken debuts in the raucous atmosphere of Clermont’s Stade Marcel Michelin on Saturday.
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And despite the West Walians falling to a 49-16 defeat, the 25-year-old admitted it was an occasion to remember.
“It was a brilliant experience, probably one of the hardest games I have ever played in my life,” he added.
“When comparing southern hemisphere to the northern hemisphere, it was probably the best competition.
“When you talk about crowds, atmosphere, quality of the opponents, brand of rugby, the Heineken Cup has got to be one of the toughest competitions in the world.”
The Scarlets pack wasn’t short on effort against Clermont but did find itself overpowered by one of the most formidable eights in the competition.
And Earle admits he and his fellow forwards have to step up to the mark if the Scarlets are to thrust themselves back into Pool 5 contention with the scalp of the crack Irish province.
“As a pack, we weren’t good enough, there is no point beating around the bush,” added Earle.
“We didn’t gain the momentum for a backline of our quality, who can turn a game.
“We showed in the first couple of minutes we were up for it and scored a try and they were on the back foot.
“But it was disappointing that we couldn’t keep the intensity going for longer. Our goal must be to do that for 80 minutes.
“It is all about momentum and we will have it this week, I can promise you that.”
Looking forward to the challenge of Leinster, Earle added: “It doesn’t get any easier, but the ice is broken.
“You won’t get bigger than Clermont in Clermont, especially in terms of that crowd and quality of players.
“It is all now about how you respond.
“We are playing at home and with our great crowd behind us it is going to motivate the guys and can only lift us.
“We are still fighting, we are not going to give up and if we can get a victory then we are right back in the competition.”