Ben Youngs gets England career back on track despite tour of New Zealand ending in disappointment
Norfolk rugby star Ben Youngs looks to have got his international career moving back in the right direction – but was one of few positives for England in the final Test of their tour of New Zealand.
The All Blacks completed a 3-0 series whitewash with a 36-13 victory at the Waikato Stadium, in what was comfortably England’s worst performance of the tour following two narrow defeats.
It has handed the reigning world champions a psychological edge ahead of next summer’s World Cup in England and an Autumn International clash at Twickenham later this year.
England’s ambitions of recording only a third Test victory in New Zealand were effectively over by half-time yesterday after the All Blacks had built a 29-6 lead.
Wing Julian Savea and scrum-half Aaron Smith helped themselves to two tries a piece, but a more determined England emerged for the second half, with Youngs receiving plenty of praise for his performance at scrum-half, in the place of injured first-choice Danny Care.
Youngs started the move which saw Marland Yarde score England’s only try early in the second half but despite a far better showing, Savea completed his hat-trick late on to settle the score at 36-13.
Youngs, who played junior rugby for both Holt and North Walsham, said: “First half, that wasn’t this England side, and that’s what’s disappointing for us coming off the pitch is that first half we let ourselves down and left ourselves with a mountain to climb and against New Zealand, the world champions, you can’t give yourselves a huge chase and ultimately we paid the price.
“What’s disappointing is we pride ourselves on our defence. Our defence is something that we spend a lot of time on and in the first half it wasn’t good enough, and whether that was individual mistakes or collectively not doing what we are meant to, we’ll have to have a look, but as I said you can’t give them that bigger lead and expect to be in the game.
“The only positive to come out is the second half, which we drew and we showed more of this England side and what we’re about in the second half but we should have been there in the first half, it isn’t good enough.”
It was the second start of the tour for 24-year-old Youngs, and his 38th cap for England, following a frustrating period which saw him out of the team during this year’s Six Nations despite being part of the successful British and Irish Lions Tour of Australia last summer.
It bodes well for Youngs, from Aylsham, that he is back in contention just a year ahead of the World Cup but the Leicester Tigers ace knows England still have much to do if they are to claim glory on home turf.
“It’s just tough lessons against these boys (New Zealand) and this is a very young squad,” Youngs told Sky Sports. “The World Cup is coming up now and we’re aware that this group is getting more and more experience each time and unfortunately you have to go through these games to get experience.
“We’ve been taught a lesson today about how to approach a game and how to come out of the blocks firing. In international rugby, if you are 10, 15 per cent off, it’s not good enough no matter who you are playing, certainly against New Zealand it wasn’t good enough and tonight a lot of guys have learned a lot of lessons, individually, and about international rugby.”
Youngs’ older brother, Tom, missed the tour to support his wife through health problems this summer.