England’s countdown to the next World Cup continued with another dismal Guinness Six Nations, but Ben Youngs has ruled out any fear.
England has suffered the same amount of defeats as they did a year ago – three – but has earned third position behind Grand Slam champions France and their closest opponents Ireland.
While France was busy making history by winning their first title since 2010, sending a message ahead of the World Cup they will host next year, Eddie Jones’ players were regressing in the aftermath of a great fall.
Only 18 months left to transform a middling northern hemisphere team into a power capable of fighting for South Africa’s global title, but Youngs is confident that the gap can be closed.
“The results haven’t been what we’d have liked, but there’s definitely no need to panic,”
“What I see is a group of experienced players and young players, an incredible coaching staff who are really clear about where we want to go and how we want to get there.
“It takes a bit of time to get there and we’re not there yet. I’m the first to say we’re not where we want to be, but I’m certainly not sitting here wondering if we’ll get to where we want to get to. I truly believe we will.
“I remember Ireland in 2018 had a really successful autumn, beating the All Blacks. And then in 2019 they didn’t win the Six Nations, Wales did, and at the World Cup they got knocked out in the quarters. Anything can happen.”
Jones has been chastised for what some see as his readiness to forego the Six Nations in order to win the Webb Ellis trophy, but Youngs argues that 2022 is about developing the next generation of internationals.
“The balance is that we want to be successful every time we take the field. There’s also an understanding we’ve got a young group of players in certain positions and they’re learning game by game,”
“I thought Freddie Steward was outstanding again against France on Saturday. He goes from strength to strength, but he’s only got 10 caps.
“France was probably the biggest game he’s ever played in and it’s the same for Marcus Smith, Harry Randall and Joe Marchant. You’ve got guys who are in at the deep end and they’re learning quick.
“The understanding right now is we’ve got a group of players, experienced and young, and it’s about trying to get the youth up to speed with the experience and the experience trying to help the youth as quickly as possible.”
Over the previous two months, the threequarters’ absence of a direct carrier with the muscle to break the gain line has been exposed once again, a role that only the frequently injured Manu Tuilagi appears capable of filling.
“We probably missed a bit of punch in our backs – that little bit of punch that’s really going to get us over that gain line like Jonathan Danty does for France,”
“Manu is someone we’ve traditionally used to give us that gainline and direction.”