“He’s really stepped up as a leader” – Mike Brown praises England team-mate Ben Youngs

England's Ben Youngs is tackled by Scotland's Tommy Seymour during the RBS Six Nations match at Twic

England's Ben Youngs is tackled by Scotland's Tommy Seymour during the RBS Six Nations match at Twickenham, London. Picture: Mike Egerton/PA Wire. - Credit: PA

England team-mate Mike Brown believes Norfolk's Ben Youngs has stepped up as a leader for his country ahead of this autumn's home Rugby World Cup.

Youngs was nominated for the RBS Six Nations Player of the Championship award for his performances at scrum-half – finishing sixth in the voting, with Ireland captain Paul O'Connell winning – wrestling back the number nine shirt from Danny Care for all five matches.

The 25-year-old former North Walsham and Holt junior capped off an impressive tournament with a man-of-the-match display against France, in which he scored twice as England came up just short of the title, despite winning 55-35.

Brown says the Leicester Tigers star put a serious marker down ahead of the selection race for the World Cup.

'The way Ben controlled the game in the Six Nations was very impressive,' said Brown,

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'He's really stepped up as a leader as well in the camp. That might come from his captaincy as Leicester but he's also just matured as a player.

'He's been around a long time as a player now like me but he's really come on as a leader and his kicking game has been really good.

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'It's hard to say if he's got his spot completely down for the World Cup. I don't think anyone is nailed in.

'Stuart (Lancaster, head coach) rewards players for working hard and consistency and the level of performance they've shown. And he'll continue to do that.'

Despite the disappointment of narrowly missing out on the Six Nations title for the fourth successive year under Lancaster, Brown knows that it is time to re-focus minds six months from a home World Cup.

The Harlequins star is seen by many as the nailed-on choice at full-back, barring injury, especially after rival Alex Goode faltered under a deluge of high Irish kicks in Dublin, but he insists nobody in the squad will be taking their places for granted.

'Stuart may have an idea in his head of the squad but that will just stay an idea until it comes down to when he has to pick,' he added.

'I'm sure he'll roughly have an idea of what his starting 15 would ideally be but I'm sure it will change a number of times before it comes down to crunch time and when he has to pick.

'It was massively disappointing to miss out on the Six Nations title and not achieve our goal.

'But we'll keep going as a squad, keep using things like this to develop us. There are still positives to take out of it going into the World Cup.'

Brown was speaking on behalf of HSBC at the Rosslyn Park HSBC National Schools Sevens where he helped run HSBC coaching clinics for schools during the tournament. For exclusive rugby content, follow @HSBC_Sport.

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