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Youngs relishing autumn scrum-half battle after summer break

Youngs relishing autumn scrum-half battle after summer break

Youngs relishing autumn scrum-half battle after summer break

A revitalised Ben Youngs is ready to take on the southern hemisphere’s best and prove that he is still England’s first-choice scrum-half after a summer on the sidelines.

Youngs missed the summer tour to Australia but returns to the squad ahead of England’s four Autumn Nations Series Tests, which begin with the visit of Argentina on 6 November.

The 33-year-old, who looks set to add to his record England men’s tally of 117 caps, believes that the best players will stay at the top of the game for longer in years to come.

“The way the sport is now in terms of what’s available for recovery and how training is, I think you’ll see a lot more people, as long as they avoid injuries, have longevity in their career,” he said.

“There’s plenty of guys out there that do it but it’s about what works for you. For myself, it’s about making sure that my training is right.

“At Leicester Tigers, I’ve got Aled Walters (head of physical performance) who is phenomenal. He makes sure that my training programme is absolutely spot on.”

Ben Youngs celebrates his record breaking appearance with his children after the match

Youngs admitted that he felt like a fan while watching England in Australia, as they claimed a 2-1 series win with club colleague Jack van Poortvliet impressing in his first matches as an international player.

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The master has seemingly had the nudge on the apprentice at domestic level so far this season, playing 224 minutes to van Poortvliet’s 172, though it remains to be seen whether England head coach Eddie Jones will follow the Leicester model and have Youngs as a starter, with Van Poortvliet adding energy and tempo from the bench.

Veteran Youngs insists he has enjoyed watching Van Poortvliet blossom from young pretender to certified star and feels that the pair have a great relationship.

“I felt very proud watching Jack do his thing,” said Youngs of Van Poortvliet’s performances Down Under.

“I’ve seen how hard he works every day. I’ve seen how much growth he’s had in such a short period and he’ll continue to go from strength to strength.

“My input has been minimal, it’s more just giving him advice, if he needs it and asks for it – a few things here and there.

“We help each other in many ways and that’s a really special thing to have. I’m definitely proud of what he’s done, being a senior guy at the club and seeing these youngsters come through as academy lads and then into the development squad and onto first teamers, seeing that is a nice feeling.”

The 2022 Autumn Nations Series concludes with South Africa’s visit to Twickenham on 26 November, and the corresponding fixture last year saw another one of England’s next generation make his mark on the world stage.

Projected Starter Series: England

Raffi Quirke scored the crucial score on just his second international appearance in a famous 27-26 win over the world champions.

The 21-year-old was ruled out of the back end of last season with a hamstring injury but made an instant impact on his return this term, scoring in Sale Sharks’ win at Gallagher Premiership holders Leicester Tigers.

And Youngs feels that Quirke brings another dimension to England’s supreme stable of scrum-halves.

“Raffi’s compact, strong, stocky, he’s got a nice eye for a gap, very explosive,” said Youngs.

“In terms of taking on guys around the fringes, he’s a bit more aggressive where other players, potentially like Alex Mitchell, are a bit different in terms of how they take on that space.

“He looks in great shape and form and again, he’s another guy, like Jack, who is so engaged, wants to learn and is full of energy.

“For me that’s brilliant. Hopefully I can help them in some way but also they help me because of their quality so I have to raise my game.”

Jones recently stated that he wants one experienced scrum-half in any squad selected, and while Youngs currently has the nod ahead of Harlequins’ Danny Care in that regard, he is aware that seniority does not necessarily translate into Test starts.

Cockerill coy on England captaincy ahead of Autumn Nations Series

“Competition is great and I think every player knows that competition gets the best out of each player and it just means the whole group strides forward,” he said.

“There’s no doubt right now that there’s an incredible amount of young talent at nine and also a few older boys like myself and Danny. It’s exciting for English rugby to have so much depth in that position.

“Everyone’s naturally competitive. Whilst I still feel like I can add, contribute and push, I live off getting the enthusiasm off those youngsters.

“Yes we compete, but we compete together, and it’s done in a way that makes sure we get the best out of each other and for the team, which is the most important thing.”


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