Sam Crean: I didn’t have a clue U20 call-up was coming!
As a young player, making the step up to play first team rugby is a fantastic achievement. Earning international recognition is the pinnacle.
Academy prop Sam Crean has realised both in 2019/20, debuting in the Premiership Rugby Cup and Heineken Champions Cup for Saracens and the U20 Six Nations for England Under-20s.
Having been with the Men in Black since 2015, the youngster joined a high number of homegrown players who have appeared at senior level but an England call-up was a surprise for him.
“I didn’t have a clue it was coming!” Crean said.
“The first person I told was my mum; I called her up and she was in the car coming home from work. I called her again when I got home so I could tell my dad as well!
“It was a big achievement and I was completely shocked as I’d done no England age-group stuff before.
“I was really excited to get involved with a new bunch of people I’d never met other than a few lads at Sarries. It was a completely different experience to playing at club.”
An away trip to France was in Crean’s sights until a bump in the road prevented his chance.
The loosehead tore his syndesmosis which meant a spell of rehabilitation and change in focus. However, at the back of his mind there was one goal to motivate him.
“Although I was really upset I just focused on getting back as quick as I could,” he said.
“We had a target in mind and I used that to fuel me every day to get in, get better and try and make my ankle stronger as quick as I could. When I got back into camp I was really excited to get back into camp and fight for my spot back.”
Fight he did and by round three of the tournament Crean was fit again and raring to go, earning the number one jersey against Ireland.
“Ian Peel has been really helpful for me. He’s been influential in helping me learn the ways of being a prop.”
It was a debut which ended in defeat, though it was moment, alongside club teammates Charlie Watson, Theo Dan and Harvey Beaton, the 19-year-old will never forget.
“I don’t really get too nervous before games but I was a little bit nervous; I was more excited though.
“I had a lot of family and friends come to the game and it was really nice to catch up with them afterwards. Post-match we had a nice meal with the Ireland lads and I got presented my cap then which was really nice.
“I have quite a decent collection of caps now from school and the 20s so it was enjoyable to get my cap and my tie. Playing with lads like Charlie, Theo and Harv makes it even better. They’re lads I’ve been with 24/7 and I’ve lived with all three of them so it was nice to go through it with them.”
A fortnight later a second opportunity arose with Crean named as a replacement as England hosted Wales in Gloucester.
He was introduced at half-time in an attempt to make an impact for his trailing country and did just that by touching down in an unusual, yet very clever, way.
Visiting scrum-half Ellis Bevan looked to have control of the ball at the back of a ruck close to his line and when he hooked it an inch too far over his own line, Crean used his knowledge of the laws to pounce – something he had picked up playing for Sarries.
“The Wales game was enjoyable, coming off the bench. I tend to not enjoy coming off the bench as I find it harder to get into games but coming on at half-time helped.
“The try I actually learnt that off Dom Day! I remember him doing it in the A League against Harlequins at The Stoop and that stuck in my mind. I remember it being a big thing in meetings and was quite funny. Although we took it as a bit of a joke I did learn it from that game.”
It is just one skill Crean has learned whilst at Saracens with many others at the club aiding his development.
Richard Barrington and Ralph Adams-Hale are among those who the prop has received guidance from as well as fellow front row Joe Gray and coach Ian Peel.
Crean wants to continue his progression by soaking up any advice that comes his way in order to add to accomplishments he has already made in his short career to date.
“Ian Peel has been really helpful for me. Moving to loosehead, he’s been influential in helping me learn the ways of being a prop. He helps me quite a lot.
“Joe Gray has also helped me a fair amount, although he’s a hooker. When it comes to scrums he’s really knowledgeable and really helped us young lads with that.
“This year with the World Cup and the Six Nations being straight has meant having a lot more opportunities at the club.
“I think last year I think I played the majority of the season at Bishops Stortford and Old Albanians on loan, playing a bit at hooker and prop, which was enjoyable but being at the club is a lot better as you get to learn a lot more in training every day with all the players.
“I want to kick on, continue to learn and hopefully that will stand me in good stead in the future.”