Tom Youngs believes England can go about silencing their army of doubters against New Zealand on Saturday by producing the same kind of no-fear performance his own underrated side did six years ago.
England’s 38-21 victory over the All Blacks in December 2012 is revered as one of the Red Rose’s greatest achievements. Going into that game, however, Young recalls how his side were damned as no-hopers after defeats to Australia and South Africa.
A team containing just 206 caps to New Zealand’s 788 confounded the odds against the world champions, though, as Stuart Lancaster’s side, energised by Manu Tuilagi in his pomp, salvaged their autumn campaign against the shell-shocked Kiwis.
Leicester hooker Youngs, right, who won his fourth cap that day, told The Rugby Paper: “We were definitely under huge pressure after losing to Australia and South Africa, but it actually tightened us as a group and we got ready for a massive, massive battle.
“They had both been narrow defeats – 20-14 and 16-15 – so despite all the criticism we knew we weren’t far off. I remember us having a really good week of training and going in with a no-fear mentality with a view to taking New Zealand on.
“New Zealand week is different. As now, we were playing the world champions; they’d been unbeaten since the World Cup and you know that if you’re not playing somewhere near your best you’re going to get spanked because they’re a quality side.
“But we delivered a performance we knew we could and it was just a great occasion. The Twickenham crowd was very loud, we didn’t allow them to gain any psychological advantage from the Haka it was a moment that will live with me for a very long time.”
England’s relative inexperience did not hamper them either, with Youngs adding: “It was only my fourth cap and Kevan Mealamu, who I opposed at hooker that day, had over 100.
“The experience they had over us was massive – nearly four times as many caps – but with that you’re almost not scared in some regards; you just think, ‘right, we’ll just go at it, try to express ourselves and throw everything at them to try and get the win.
“Manu had a great game that day and was pretty much the difference between the sides with the way he managed to break tackles, offload and be a physical threat.
“There’ll be lots of guys in this side who’ve never faced New Zealand before but they’ve got their chance now and my advice is to relish it. I wouldn’t say it’s a life-changing experience to beat them but it’s certainly a great feather to stick in your cap.”
While England’s form this year has been inconsistent, it highlights further parallels with the class of 2012 who came into their match against the All Blacks on the back of a losing series in South Africa and one win in six games during June and November.
Youngs added: “It’s very similar but momentum can change very quickly in Test rugby – a win against New Zealand now can wipe away a lot of doubts.
“Our team went on to have a pretty successful Six Nations and enjoyed a decent a winning streak.
“England must be very accurate and not allow New Zealand quick ball. Our set-piece and breakdown were very good and we kept Richie McCaw and Dan Carter at bay, so if the current side can do the same, things will be written very differently.”
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