“It’s everything now, it’s our World Cup final” – Ben Youngs confident he will be fit for England’s crunch clash with Australia
- Credit: PA
Ben Youngs had dreamed of playing in a World Cup final on home soil for England – but he was not expecting it to be played four weeks early.
The shellshocked scrum-half admits he felt 'devastated' in the aftermath of Saturday's painful defeat to Wales at Twickenham, in which he was replaced in the 52nd minute because of an ankle injury.
But Youngs is already re-focusing on a trip to the Last Chance Saloon back at HQ against Australia this Saturday night, when anything less than victory will almost certainly mean elimination at the pool stage.
'It's everything now, it's our World Cup final,' the Leicester Tigers star said. 'We'll have to make sure we bring it because if not we'll be exiting early, which is no one's ambition.
'It's all or nothing for us so we'll prepare to go out and empty the tank.
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'We've got to play like it's everything for us and it will be everything – we just have to get the result. We have to, and sometimes when you're playing with that it can help. We've just got to make sure no one goes into their shells and everyone makes sure they bring it, because if it's the same scenario then it's all over for us.'
A nervy start had seen the Welsh go 6-3 in front after an exchange of early penalties before Youngs – who had been sluggish in the 35-11 opening-night win over Fiji – took the game by the scruff of the neck.
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The 26-year-old, who made more carries (six) across the gain-line than anyone else on the pitch, darted into the Wales 22 and began a phase of play which saw him pass for Owen Farrell to equalise with a drop goal.
England's pack then demolished the visitors at a scrum in the 24th minute to spark roars of approval from the home support, Farrell kicking Stuart Lancaster's side 9-6 in front from the subsequent penalty.
Youngs' older brother, hooker Tom, successfully nailed a lineout on the right soon after and the move spread across the pitch and concluded in the younger of the Norfolk-born brothers finding the space to set Jonny May through for the first try.
The hosts went into the break with a deserved 16-9 lead and Youngs was pleased with how he was playing – only to limp off with the score at 19-12 in the 52nd minute.
'I hurt my ankle pretty early on in the game really but it seems alright,' Youngs continued. 'At half-time it just got real stiff and after about 10 minutes of the second half it was no good, so you don't want to put your team under any added pressure by not being able to function fully.
'But I'm absolutely confident that I'll be ready for Australia. The physios are all pretty happy with it; structurally it's fine, it's just a bit inflamed.
'I felt good out there, I felt sharp, I felt like I was creating stuff, it was just devastating to come off so early because I still felt like I had a lot more to give and there were certainly opportunities in the game where I felt if I was still on I would have been able to manipulate something.'
With the intense battle leaving injured players from both sides littered across the pitch, England went 25-18 ahead in the 69th minute through the boot of Farrell to seemingly ease the Twickenham nerves.
Two minutes later, however, Gareth Davies went over for a converted try for Wales and Dan Biggar then kicked Warren Gatland's side ahead with a huge penalty from just inside the England half for a 28-25 lead with less than five minutes to play.
Red Rose skipper Chris Robshaw elected to kick a wide-right penalty for touch in the 77th minute, opting for the lineout to try and drive over for a late try and the win, but the Welsh pack made a mockery of that decision by driving the hosts back into touch and holding out for a famous victory.
Youngs could not hide from the fact it was painful to watch from the sidelines, adding: 'We're obviously completely devastated right now because we were in complete control of that game until the last eight minutes or so and we've just got to make sure we dust ourselves down.
'Everyone will be disappointed but we can still qualify.'