Ben sets sights on Six Nations success
Norfolk scrum-half Ben Youngs aims to help England lay down an early Six Nations marker in tonight's opening fixture against Wales at the Millennium Stadium.
The former Gresham's pupil will win his eighth cap against the Welsh after bursting on to the international stage with a vital try in England's 21-20 victory over Australia last season in Sydney.
The 21-year-old also helped create Chris Ashton's wonder score from 95 yards against the same opposition at Twickenham in November as Martin Johnson's men underlined their billing as pre-tournament Six Nations' favourites.
England have not won in Cardiff since 2003, when Clive Woodward's side launched their Grand Slam campaign in the Welsh capital.
That was also the last year England won the title and Youngs insists the time has come to change that statistic after seven years of under-achievement.
'People are more aware what we are capable of now,' said Youngs. 'They have seen that we can beat Australia by a huge amount, Samoa are not an easy side and we came closer to New Zealand than any other team. We are in a good place and we can kick on. It is about time. We want to get some trophies.'
The Leicester Tigers' No 9 will be in direct combat with Welsh counterpart Mike Phillips, who starred for the British and Irish Lions on the 2009 South Africa tour.
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Phillips, who stands 6ft 3in tall and weighs more than 16st, has a reputation as a feisty character not afraid to throw his weight around like a fourth loose-forward, but Youngs will relish the challenge.
'Mike Phillips is a big guy. There will be a bit of banter around the scrum and he will probably try and push me about a bit but that is to be expected,' he said. 'As long as you know what is coming your way you can prepare to be in the right place and not be put off by it. I expect him to be physical with me and maybe a bit of sledging but it is part of the game. There is nothing wrong with a bit of niggle now and then.
'I have seen a lot of him. I thought he was outstanding on the Lions tour. He makes his tackles and he is strong and he will pick and go like a back rower. His passing is alright but there are areas of his game I will be targeting.
'I have the utmost respect for him. I will relish that challenge to play against him.'
Youngs is already being touted as Phillips' successor on the next Lions' tour to Australia in 2013 after his meteoric rise through the professional ranks to become England's established first choice.
As a youngster there were only three jerseys Youngs could have dreamed of wearing – the green of Leicester, the white of England and the red of the Lions.
While all his friends turned up for junior rugby in their replica shirts, Youngs did not own one. Even in those early days he felt they had to be earned.
Youngs has achieved the first two. Although still too far off to consider properly, the Lions is the logical next step.
'I never owned an England shirt. I didn't even have a Leicester shirt or a Lions shirt,' he said. 'I get lots of kids asking me for kit and I say the same thing to them every time: 'If you work hard you will earn it one day'.
'That was my motto when I was younger. I have earned my shirts so far and hopefully that continues.'
He added: 'The day you think the shirt is yours is the day you lose it.
'Everything has happened very quickly. I don't really want to stop and reflect on what I have done in case I was happy with where I got to and my standards in training would drop off.
'I have to keep setting myself new goals. You will only stay in place through hard work.'