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England’s Ben Youngs says onus is on Scotland Robert Kitson

September 28th, 2011 by · No Comments · Features

Ben Young scores first try against the Aussies

The scrum-half says he would be happy to win ugly as England opt for Armitage ahead of Cueto on wing

England know the potential rewards if they can beat Scotland on Saturday. They also know the horrors which could await if it all goes pear-shaped. The latter is not a scenario they wish to dwell on, which is probably why Ben Youngs was trying so hard to sound unconcerned. “We are the ones in control and the ones who should be confident, and rightly so. It is not arrogance … Scotland are the ones who have got to come out and play.”

The forest of microphones in front of the 22-year-old scrum-half told a slightly different story. There is equal pressure on both sides in the buildup to Saturday’s Pool B qualification showdown at Eden Park, regardless of what has unfolded so far. If anything England, as the clear favourites, may have slightly more to lose. The question is not so much whether the Scots will make life difficult for them as precisely how the English will react when – rather than if – they find themselves on the back foot.

Recent evidence, in that respect, is contradictory. Few can dispute England have defended impressively at this tournament, having conceded only one try in 240 minutes. It was only last March, though, that the Irish pack laid waste their Grand Slam aspirations in Dublin and taught Youngs the most painful lesson of his short Test career. If anyone should beware of underestimating the Celts it should be him.

Hence the slight uncertainty still lurking beneath Youngs’s outwardly confident facade. There were clear signs against Romania last week that he is rediscovering the snap and crackle which marked him out last year as one of the most promising English talents to emerge in a long time. Shrewd Kiwi judges rate him, too.

At the same time, he made his Test debut in the 15-15 draw at Murrayfield only 18 months ago and discovered just how prickly a thistle-shirted Scottish pack with a grievance can be.

This time around, despite his “massive respect” for the opposition, he insists England are a better, wiser team. “We lost to Ireland but we learned a huge amount and I think we are in a great place as a squad. It is going to be tough but we have been playing well. We are fully confident and if we get it right we will be all right.

“We have conceded one try in the last three games and we are pretty confident if we control the game, control the territory, then hopefully the ball they do get will be 80 metres from our line and it will be difficult for them to break us down.”

That may not be the case if Scotland cause as much disruption at the breakdown as they have done against the English during Andy Robinson’s tenure. Youngs readily admits that England have “worked really hard” on that area after struggling to establish any consistent tempo in their matches against Argentina and Georgia, although Martin Johnson, the England team manager, has clearly reminded all concerned that style comes a distant second to outcome.

“We have got a gameplan and if we stick to that it should be enough,” Youngs said. “But I would rather win ugly than lose playing with ambition and flair. We need to be more hungry and more passionate than them and we have to match them physically. If we do that we will be in a good place.”

England, therefore, will opt for their strongest-available set-piece specialists and, barring any training-ground mishaps, retain Jonny Wilkinson as their starting No10. Matt Stevens and Courtney Lawes appear poised to resume in the pack after injury and suspension respectively, with the only other real debate being out on the wing. Delon Armitage, whose pace and strength have impressed the management, has been chosen ahead of Mark Cueto on the wing, despite Cueto’s three tries against Romania and his instinctive footballing understanding with Chris Ashton and Ben Foden.

It is up front, though, that Youngs expects the battle to be decided. “There is a huge buzz about the weekend. Everyone is fully aware we are in a World Cup. We have to win every game and there is more to gain at a World Cup than at a Six Nations. I expect the forwards to go hammer and tongs at each other and see who comes out. But I would always like to be behind our pack … you always back your own forwards.”

That faith could yet be tested if it rains. Scotland, who are set to qualify if they win by eight points or more and deny their opponents a try bonus point, have played two successive games in wet conditions. England have spent the entire tournament so far sheltering beneath the roof of the Otago Stadium in Dunedin.

“Living in Scotland they could be a bit more used to it,” ventured Youngs, dipping his toes into murky waters. “We have played under a roof when you are able to chuck it around a bit. It is due to rain on the weekend so we are fully aware of the weather and conditions.

“Guys have played in it enough in the Premiership and Heineken Cup. As long as we play the right game and guys are smart and don’t force things then we will cope with the conditions.” © 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & ConditionsMore Feeds

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Ben Young scores first try against the Aussies



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