Ben Youngs will break Jason Leonard’s record of 114 England men’s caps when he hits the field against Wales at Twickenham on Saturday.
When Youngs made his England debut as a fresh-faced 20-year-old replacement against Scotland in 2010, Martin Johnson was in charge, Jonny Wilkinson was still at fly-half, and Steve Borthwick was captain.
The Leicester Tiger has been the first-choice scrum-half for the overwhelming duration of his 12 years as an international, having played under three different head coaches in Johnson, Stuart Lancaster, and Eddie Jones. Youngs, a beloved member of the squad, has also been one of Jones’ most trusted and important lieutenants on the field.
Only Australia legend George Gregan has more caps at a scrum-half for his country. It would be a significant accomplishment to surpass the former Wallabies captain’s total of 139 appearances, but even if Youngs falls short of that mark, he has earned the right to be counted among the best in his position, both on Australian soil and beyond.
Other half-backs may have more zing, but the 32-year-old remains a deadly running threat while also providing exceptional game-management and an understanding that repeating the basics to a high degree is the key to the position
When England has struggled under Jones and the head coach has hinted that a change of guard is on the way, Youngs is always one of the first names to be nominated for the chopping block. Nonetheless, he has demonstrated tremendous fortitude in repelling all challengers to his throne while continually demonstrating his place as England’s preeminent scrum-half.
Danny Care, Richard Wigglesworth, Lee Dickson, and Willi Heinz are among those he has defeated, while Harry Randall and Raffi Quirke are the latest challengers to his jersey. Both are speedier and more dynamic possibilities, particularly in open play, but they are still in their early careers and lack Youngs’ demonstrated decision-making reliability.