Ben Youngs tells us what fuelled his England comeback ahead of Six Nations clash with Wales
- Credit: PA
With his England career back on track, Norfolk's Ben Youngs talks to David Freezer about his Six Nations hopes.
When Ben Youngs stands under the spotlight of the rugby world tomorrow night, he will complete one journey and take his first steps towards another remarkable achievement.
The Norfolk rugby star watched last year's Six Nations from afar due to a dip in form and fitness at the end of 2013 costing him a place in the England squad.
Youngs could only watch as Danny Care made the England number nine shirt his own, having not made Stuart Lancaster's squad.
It brought an end to a rapid elevation for the scrum-half – but it could well prove to have been the making of him.
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'For me it was the first time of not being involved in the matchday 23, so it was tough to watch and not be a part of it,' Youngs reflected.
'It was really tough, it also gave me a huge amount of motivation for trying to get back involved, which I've been able to do.
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'It gave me that motivation and it's worked well in terms of getting me back in so far, of getting me back to where I am now.'
The 25-year-old vowed to get back to basics and rediscover his love for the game, knowing that his chance of being in England's squad for the home World Cup of 2015 was in the balance.
His resurgence began in New Zealand last summer, where the zip to his passes and high energy returned despite three narrow losses for England against the All Blacks.
Care resumed his place as first choice for the Autumn Internationals, but Youngs continued his renaissance by performing well when given his chance in a 28-9 victory against Samoa, to keep his place for the series-ending clash with Australia.
With Care allowed to return to Harlequins to concentrate on regaining his form, the Leicester Tigers ace then completed his comeback by playing his part in a much-needed 26-17 win against the Wallabies.
'The most important thing was focusing on the club form and hopefully getting recognised through that,' Youngs continued. 'Obviously so far, so good, in terms of just focusing on your rugby at your club and getting some time with England. I got some games in the autumn, I'm back in the squad for the moment and I'm hoping to get a spot for the matchday 23.
'But you can only get selected here on the back of your club form, so that will always be my main focus, and once you get in the squad here it's all about doing everything you can to try and make sure you're a part of the 23.'
Injury to club captain Ed Slater has also seen the former Holt and North Walsham junior player taking on the armband for Leicester this season, which Youngs feels has helped continue his efforts to improve.
'It's been a bit of a yo-yo season for us in terms of results and performances, so it's been challenging,' he added.
'But at the same time it's been a big learning curve for myself as captain and trying to adapt to week in, week out, in terms of trying to get the guys motivated and working on things that haven't gone right the week before.
'I have enjoyed it but there have certainly been times where it's been a real struggle, when you come off the back of a big defeat or something like that.
'It's certainly added to my experience, being put in that team environment as captain and you have to try and set the example and lead, help try and get the best out of each other, have dialogue with the coaches as well. Certainly it helps you mature as a player and as a person.
'So I feel I'm taking steps forward in terms of my leadership this year.'
If Youngs can now play his part in victory in Cardiff, he will take another big step towards that World Cup squad – but it will only be the beginning of another tough journey.
– Get behind the scenes news from Ben Youngs and his England team-mates throughout the RBS Six Nations with O2 Inside Line. Search 'O2 Inside Line'.