Ben Youngs to join Red Rose icon Jonny Wilkinson as England’s most-capped back

Jonny Wilkinson’s reign as England’s most capped back ends on Thursday when the United States enter the World Cup, writes Alex Spink in Kobe .

The nation’s focus will centre on how England bounce back from their misfiring opening gambit against Tonga.

But for one Norfolk family the occasion will be cause for celebration when Ben Youngs moves alongside Wilkinson on 91 caps.

Nine years after making his debut against Scotland in the same team as the World Cup winner, the Leicester scrum-half catches up with him.

“Jonny is an icon of the game and to get this accolade is pretty cool,” said Youngs. “I remember making my first start for England and Jonny being involved.

 



Jonny Wilkinson delivers the Webb Ellis Trophy to the stadium
Jonny Wilkinson with World Cup…



…and winning it with that drop goal in Sydney 16 years ago

“When you first start out it goes fast and you’re in it and not really sure what’s going on. I remember Simon Shaw telling me to enjoy it because it would go so quick.

“But you get older and understand what gets you there, how you do it and how you sustain it. Getting there is almost the easy bit, the hard bit is staying there and being consistent in it.”

It is consistency which has been Youngs’ point of difference in the ever-competitive battle for the No.9 jersey.



Youngs takes on Italy earlier this month

Just this year he has seen off the challenge of Danny Care, Richard Wigglesworth, Dan Robson and Ben Spencer – in so doing convincing Eddie Jones that he only needs two scrum-halves in Japan.

Youngs would swap his individual accolade for a World Cup, perhaps even a semi-final appearance given that his previous two campaigns have ended before the party has really even got started.

If that is to happen he has a major role to play in influencing it. Against Tonga, England’s tempo was too pedestrian. Dropping a load of ball is one thing, doing it without any real snap a greater concern.



Manu Tuilagi bagged two tries in England’s opener against Tonga

They have one more game to get it right before the serious tests of their credentials start against Argentina on Saturday week.

America, on paper and current form, are better than Tonga – even if they have disappointed Jones by not picking ’15 Donald Trumps’, presumably as they don’t feel that is the best way to make American rugby great again.

“They beat Scotland don’t forget. There will be enthusiasm, a bit like Tonga,” said Youngs. “I suspect America will be very similar with that physicality. They have been focusing on this game since they turned up.”

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Rugby World Cup 2019

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