England’s valiant Six Nations effort led by Norfolk’s finest exports
- Credit: PA
The heart of English rugby was beating furiously to an impressive rhythm during the spectacular Six Nations finale – orchestrated by Norfolk's finest.
Ben Youngs was the man dictating that rhythm, once again making it crystal clear that England's number nine jersey is his.
England's valiant attempt to snatch the title on points difference from Ireland in the final five minutes of the tournament made for a thrilling climax and keeps hopes alive of World Cup glory for the host nation later this year.
To beat France by 20 points, scoring over 50 points, and to finish the match with a huge feeling of disappointment is proof that Stuart Lancaster's side are capable of greatness.
With injured players such as Manu Tuilagi, Joe Launchbury and Ben Morgan also able to bolster the Red Rose hopes, England can at least dare to dream.
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But it was Youngs taking many of the plaudits for Saturday's sterling effort, the scrum-half from north Norfolk scoring two tries and being named man of the match.
'Best player on the field. Heroic. Did enough to win three Tests,' was the opinion of the Daily Mail's Chris Foy, giving the 25-year-old former Holt and North Walsham junior a rating of nine out of 10 for his performance.
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The Independent's Alan Peary went one better and gave the former Gresham's School pupil the full 10 out of 10, saying: 'Situation was made for him. Remarkable verve and energy, and two tries and assist to boot. Perhaps his finest game for England.'
Gerard Meagher of the Guardian was satisfied with a rating of nine, writing: 'Right place at right time for first try, but made a superb break to set up Ford's in the second half. Always sniping and it reaped rewards for his second try. Back to his best.'
Not bad, considering Youngs spent last year playing second fiddle to Danny Care after his brilliant early career seemed to catch up with him following the victorious British & Irish Lions tour of Australia in 2013.
The captain's armband with Leicester Tigers and intention to get back to basics has seen Youngs rediscover his magic touch this season.
His part in the fiercely brave effort against France brought a 47th cap – just 42 players have more for England.
To put that into perspective, Jason Leonard tops the list with 114, followed by Jonny Wilkinson with 91. At 25 years old, Youngs could well see his name alongside such greats on that list one day, particularly if he can continue his current form. Repeat it at the World Cup later this year and such records may seem irrelevant; Youngs could find his name indelibly inked into English rugby folklore.
Of course, he is not the only Norfolk boy doing Nelson's County proud – older brother Tom also featured as the replacement hooker in all five of England's matches. Tom's 22nd cap came at the age of 28, as his battle with Dylan Hartley for the number two shirt rumbles on.
The opening game of the World Cup is now just 180 days away and perhaps not winning the Six Nations can be taken as a good omen.
Speaking to Ben before this year's Six Nations curtain-raiser – an electrifying 21-16 victory in Cardiff's Millennium Stadium – he assured me that Six Nations success would not dictate England's World Cup fate. Clive Woodward masterminded Grand Slam success in 2003 ahead of his team's World Cup triumph Down Under and that famous Jonny Wilkinson drop-goal.
Yet Youngs was relaxed about the prospect of the 2015 squad not following the same path, saying: 'We feel that this is our journey, we don't want to talk about what other guys did because if we don't win the Six Nations, we don't win a Grand Slam, we don't want to be saying 'we didn't win it and they did', so we're fully aware that they won it but that hasn't been talked about.'
The might of the All Blacks will of course be one of the many obstacles which stand in England's path, desperate to ruin the party for the host nation. At least we can now look forward to that challenge knowing we have an England team with the skill and bravery required to give it a go – with a little bit of Norfolk nous to help it along the way. Roll on September.
• Former Diss junior Will Owen was part of the England side which won the Under-20 Six Nations with a two-try 24-11 win against France at Brighton's Amex Stadium.
Follow David Freezer on Twitter @davefreezer.