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Ben Youngs upping his game to save England career

England scrum-half Ben Youngs

BEN YOUNGS has played in some great Leicester teams in his 13 years as a first-team Tiger, but the scrum-half says he has never been more excited than to be a part of the current group.

With Leicester languishing at the wrong end of the Premiership table and having to settle for life in Europe’s second tier, that may surprise a lot of people.

But Youngs’ optimistic mood stems from the environment created by new head coach Steve Borthwick, who he knows well from their days together with England.

“With Steve coming in, it does feel like a very fresh start,” the 31-year-old said. “I know him well and what he can produce.

“He has been able to give a bit more clarity to how we want to play, and then within that game model you can have an influence, whereas maybe I haven’t had that framework for a while.

“It takes time to build things back up, but I am sure we will get there. I’ve never been more excited than I am now with this new regime.”

Youngs has been stuck on 99 England caps for over six months due to Covid-19 and the break in international rugby.

While the pandemic has got in the way, Youngs admits other threats – like Dan Robson and Ben Spencer – might have a say in whether he gets to three figures or not.

Youngs acknowledged both scrum-half rivals have impressed while playing in winning Wasps and Bath teams.

“They’re good quality players and you’re always going to acknowledge that. They are playing well and from my point of view, you watch them and think, ‘I like that, that’s sharp’,” he said.

“Nine is a hard position and I can appreciate it when someone is doing what they are doing and think ‘fair play’.

“I watch them and think, I want to try that or do a bit of that, so it does poke you a little bit.

“When you’ve got guys playing as well as they are, then you’ve got to step up; I want to step up.”

One milestone has, however, been reached – his 250th appearance for Leicester – in last weekend’s derby win over Northampton.

The result and the post-match, changing room presentation by his dad, former Tiger Nick, made it a special day all round.

“I’ve always looked at it as, ‘what next? Can I get to 300, can I get to 325, 350… who knows? I am very happy but also kind of never content.

“I like to go about my work and not shout it from the rooftops and when you are forced to talk about yourself, I find that a bit uncomfortable.

“But it is a moment I need to acknowledge, and I am thankful to the club for letting my dad watch the game.”

With a house that’s as neat and tidy as his game, Young says the decanter given to him is safely stashed away.

“It’s still in the box, out of the reach of the kids, I don’t have any memorabilia out in the house. It’s all in Tupperware pots. I like to keep a decluttered house.”

A 100th England cap, he hopes, will be the next item to go under lock and key.

JON NEWCOMBE

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