Ben Youngs sees consistency as key to England success
Consistency is the key for England as they look to make it two wins from two in this season's Six Nations when Italy visit Twickenham.
That is according to Norfolk scrum-half Ben Youngs, who will make his first home Six Nations start at Twickenham on Saturday with England looking to build on the promise of their opening 26-19 win in Wales seven days ago.
They will also be aiming to iron out the inconsistency they showed during their autumn Tests, where an exhilarating win against Australia and a workman-like performance against Samoa came side by side with less impressive outings against New Zealand and South Africa.
So starting out on a World Cup year, and as favourites for the Six Nations crown, England will have to learn quickly to keep their standards as high as possible.
'It is about improving and the main challenge for us is consistency,' said Youngs. 'We weren't good against New Zealand, we were good against Australia and Samoa, and poor against South Africa. Consistency is what we're striving for and all the players are very much aware of that.
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'Obviously we are still learning and gelling together, and it's going to take a bit more time. But we are certainly improving week in week out, in terms of every game we play. I think again we'll put in another good performance this weekend.'
Martin Johnson's side remains a young one overall, but the progress has been good after some early wobbles in the hot seat.
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Youngs, however, has looked the real deal from the first moment he put on a England shirt – only eight caps ago.
It was hard to believe the win in Wales was Youngs' first appearance in the Six Nations.
'Yes, first start, and it was amazing playing at the Millennium Stadium,' said the former Holt, Gresham's and North Walsham youngster. 'The atmosphere… the roof was closed, 70,000 people screaming. I could hardly hear Floody (Toby Flood) and he was five yards away from me at the time.
'It was a great place to play and just awesome to get the win and get the championship under way like that. We knew what a massive challenge it was to go to Wales. We hadn't won there since 2003 and we were just delighted.
'We played some great stuff and at the same time we played some poor stuff, so there was a bit of cobwebs coming out of the first game as we haven't played together since the autumn.
'But we're happy with how things are going and now we can look forward to Italy at the weekend.'
Youngs also had the personal challenge in the principality – and came up on the winning side against Lions number nine Mike Phillips, a jersey Youngs will surely wear in the future.
'I'm not one to say who came out on top; I think we both offered different things in parts of the game, but we had a bit more possession and won the game, so I'd like to think I did all right,' added the modest Leicester Tigers man.
For now Youngs is still concentrating on competition for his England shirt, with the 21-year-old withdrawn to give Danny Care the last 18 minutes to shine against Wales.
'Some games obviously you want to play the full duration, but at the same time you are probably running 11km in the space of 60 minutes and that is not including the amount of contact you make,' said Youngs.
'So your body soon tires out, especially at scrum-half and the props. They often have to be replaced because the legs can give up after a certain amount of time and we are only conditioned to run a certain amount. Plus international rugby is so physical, it's good to get some fresh legs on.
'Sure, you never want to be taken off, but at the same time if that's what is best for the team and it's the decision the coach has made, then you back him. Danny Care is a great scrum-half and is another guy very similar to me in terms of how we play.'
England have been forced into one change ahead of the visit of Italy, who came within a late Ronan O'Gara drop-goal of earning a shock win over Ireland in their opening fixture in Rome last week.
Andrew Sheridan has withdrawn because of a back injury, with London Irish 23-year-old Alex Corbisiero now set to make his Test debut at Twickenham.
David Wilson is set to remain on the bench, while Corbisiero will be handed a baptism of fire as he prepares to come up against the formidable figure of Leicester's Martin Castrogiovanni.
Johnson said of Corbisiero: 'He's strong, fit and he can play at this level. He's played against some of the best props in the world in the Premiership.'