England will avoid defensive mindset in attempt to win another Six Nations crown – Ben Youngs
- Credit: PA
England will not defend their Six Nations title when battle commences next week – they will get on the front foot and attempt to win the crown all over again.
That will be the approach of Norfolk star Ben Youngs at least, as he and the Red Rose squad follow the lead of the Australian with the Midas touch, head coach Eddie Jones.
'Eddie has spoken about that and he's said we're not going out there to defend it,' the Leicester Tigers scrum-half explained. 'We're going out there to re-win it and that will be the mindset from the boys, from when we had our training camp in Brighton.
'We're going to go out there and try to win it again rather than protect it. We've got to be bold and brave and that's what we'll try to do.'
Youngs has retained his place in the national squad after playing an important part in a phenomenal first year of Jones' reign, winning 13 straight matches since succeeding Stuart Lancaster after the 2015 World Cup.
That is despite a distressing time at Leicester, where a disappointing European Champions Cup campaign and faltering Aviva Premiership form led to the recent dismissal of long-serving director of rugby Richard Cockerill.
However, the man who learned his skills at Holt and North Walsham as a junior displayed some of the best international form of his career in 2016 as England won the Six Nations grand slam, whitewashed Australia on their summer tour Down Under and defied injury problems to maintain their 100pc record during the Autumn Internationals.
Those latter Twickenham victories over Fiji, Argentina, South Africa and Australia saw the 27-year-old named Old Mutual Wealth Player of the Series – beating off competition from Chris Robshaw, Mako Vunipola and Jonathan Joseph.
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It is those wins in particular, achieved while players including James Haskell, Billy Vunipola, Maro Itoje, George Kruis, Anthony Watson and Jack Nowell were all among the unavailable due to injury, which has given England added belief in their strength in depth.
'We played the Autumn Internationals with injuries to guys like Billy Vunipola and that showed that as one door closes another opens and other people get their chance to show what they can do at Test level,' Youngs continued.
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'It's well publicised the problems this year, the Vunipola brothers etcetera, but ultimately that opens doors for others to try and get hold of the shirt and it means we get to find out about other players.'
Many of those injury problems have eased – although influential flanker Robshaw has joined the Vunipola brothers on the sidelines – leaving England to focus on their first match, against France at Twickenham on Saturday, February 4 (4.50pm).
However, that is a Les Bleus squad narrowly beaten by Australia and world champions New Zealand in Paris in the autumn.
Guy Novès' squad were narrowly beaten 25-23 by the Wallabies in November, when Camille Lopez dramatically missed a last-gasp drop goal, and then 24-19 by the All Blacks the following week.
'There's just no respite in the Six Nations and starting with France at home is already a much-anticipated game,' former Gresham's School pupil Youngs added, as he looks to add to his 65 caps.
'We've had some good games against them previously and I'm sure the first round this year will be as important as ever.
'We go to Wales in the second game so if you can win those first two all of a sudden you've got real momentum.
'So two very tough away games but if we can go and win in Cardiff that will give us confidence early – but all our focus will be on the France game and then we'll reassess after that.'
Five appearances during the tournament will see the Norfolk star enter England's-time top 20 appearance makers and above Jeremy Guscott and Neil Back – keeping him on track to tour New Zealand with the British and Irish Lions this summer.