Ben Youngs is desperate to stake his claim for a regular England starting berth
- Credit: PA
Ben Youngs is hoping to get the opportunity to build on a solid return to the England starting line-up when the QBE Autumn Series concludes with a mouth-watering fixture against Australia.
The Leicester Tigers scrum-half did his bit for the cause as Stuart Lancaster's team saw off a fired-up Samoa outfit 28-9 at the weekend and is now keeping his fingers crossed that he did enough to merit another chance to impress. It remains to be seen if there will be a Norfolk presence in the first 15 on Saturday - but whether he plays from the start or from the bench Youngs wants to see an improved performance from the team in their final match before the Six Nations Championship gets under way in the new year.
'This time we need to target not only a victory but also a really good team performance,' he said.
'Playing against Samoa it is always going to be tough. They are a very physical side anyway but when they come to Twickenham it's their World Cup final. Also there was a lot going on in the background leading up to the match with a dispute with their Federation over payment and other things and I think that fired them up even more.
'They wanted to go out there and make a statement and it was a big, physical Test match. In some areas we were very effective and we were very pleased about that but in other areas we didn't quite gel, things didn't quiet happen for us. A win is a win, especially after two tough defeats, but we didn't come off the field thinking we've nailed it, or anything like that.
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'It's good that we have got another opportunity to show what we can do this weekend.'
Youngs was given the chance to shine ahead of recent first choice scrum-half Danny Care and felt he gave a solid account of himself.
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'I have had to wait quite a long time to start a game at Twickenham so from a personal point of view it was obviously great to be out there,' he said.
'I was reasonably pleased with how it went. I felt I did what I needed to do but nothing more than that. It was just one of those games where everybody wanted to put in a big performance - but it didn't happen for everyone, and, as I said, that's credit to Samoa and the way they shut us down. Hopefully if I am selected on Saturday there will be a bit more space to have a run or try and make something happen.
'It was good to be given the shirt and get a chance to show what I can do as a member of the starting line-up. Hopefully I'll get another chance to show what I can do, although I'll obviously have to wait and see about that. We have just got to take our lessons from Samoa and take that into the Australia game, because that is going to be a another really tough one.'
Youngs admits there are mixed feelings in the England camp as they prepare for the conclusion of the Autumn Series. They may have lost to New Zealand and South Africa - and in the tough world of international sport a defeat is a defeat as much as a win is win. But having featured in those desperately tight games (21-24 and 28-31 respectively) Youngs feels there plenty reasons for optimism ahead of the biggest challenge an England player will ever face - a World Cup on home soil.
'Even if we win at the weekend our record in the Autumn Internationals will be won two, lost two which doesn't sound great,' he said.
'But the fact that the players are all really disappointed to have come up only just short against the two best teams in the world shows where we are as a group.
'We showed we can compete against the best - but we obviously want to beat the best and we want to be beating them consistently as well. We want to be that team what everyone wants to beat, like New Zealand are at present.
'I certainly think we are in a position now where we can compete with the top sides. It's now a case of building on what we have learned and, after the Australia game, taking it into the Six Nations and of course the World Cup.'
Youngs' target is now crystal clear - to be a regular starter in what promises to be a thrilling year for England rugby.
The same applies to Ben's older brother Tom, who missed the Autumn Series with a shoulder injury but is now fit again and is set to make his comeback for Leicester Tigers at the weekend.
'Tom's fine now which is great news,' said Youngs junior.
'As you can imagine he is really looking forward to getting back out there. He's just needs to get back into it, get fully match fit, and then hopefully he will be knocking on the door for England again. With the World Cup coming up he wants to get back in the mix as soon as possible, just like all of us.'
Get behind the scenes news from Ben Youngs and his England team-mates with O2 Inside Line. New YouTube episode every Wednesday at http://o2.uk/InsideLine. #o2insideline