Norfolk star Ben Youngs confident England have strength in depth
PUBLISHED: 13:52 26 October 2017
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England head into the autumn with injuries and suspensions threatening to derail them - but Norfolk's Ben Youngs insists this is the deepest Red Rose squad he has ever known.
Considering Youngs has been an international stalwart for over seven years now, an ever-present under Martin Johnson, Stuart Lancaster and now Eddie Jones – that is quite some claim.
But after a summer that saw 15 England stars head to New Zealand with the British & Irish Lions and 11 new faces make their debut for the Red Rose in Argentina, Jones has a selection headache in trying to meld the two together.
He unveiled his squad for the autumn clashes against Argentina, Samoa and Australia yesterday, with Billy Vunipola and Jack Nowell out injured and Kyle Sinckler suspended plus ongoing citings for No.8 Nathan Hughes and prop Joe Marler.
There were few surprises in the 34-man squad, with James Haskell the bigegst casualty, omitted in favour of rising Exeter star Sam Simmonds.
Youngs, who has not played for England since March after taking the summer off to support his brother Tom, whose wife is seriously ill, is now itching to return.
“Have I known an England squad to be this strong? No, I haven’t,” said the 28-year-old. “The number of guys that went on tours and did so well is great for us. Those young guys went to Argentina, and won 2-0 in that hostile environment which will have been an amazing experience.
“And then the Lions tour to New Zealand, that is the best of the best so you can only improve, and that combined experience means that we have come back together ready to go out and play.
“This squad has not been together really since Ireland and the last game of the Six Nations, since then we have strengthened throughout every position.”
Youngs added: “No team has won a World Cup without having a to change a large part of their team.
“And it is clear to us that this is a massively important part of our development as a squad.
“We have guys ready to come in and do the job, and more than that, they can add to the team.
“Youth brings enthusiasm, the average age of the squad is just phenomenal. That starts at the Premiership where guys are coming through so quickly to the first team and slotting in seamlessly.
“That element of excitement that they bring keeps everyone fresh – and young players know that that if you are good enough then there is no reason why you can’t be in the mix.
“All these players can see what is going on and think, I can do that as well.”
Meanwhile, Youngs himself is feeling refreshed and reinvigorated after his summer break and a first full pre-season in years.
And while this autumn is a fantastic chance for England to continue their unbeaten run under Jones at Twickenham that currently stands at ten games, the real goal is the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
“Without a doubt, I would say this is the clearest World Cup plan we have had in my time with England. We have a clear system for how we are going to go to Japan in 2019,” he added.
“It’s really clear about our objectives, and everyone has completely bought in.
“Being at home at Twickenham is important, we want this to be our fortress.
“We feel we are right where we need to be, and with Argentina up first, and them being in our pool at the World Cup, this is an important first game for us.”
Ben Youngs is a Land Rover ambassador. This year Land Rover celebrates its Testimonial Season of support for grassroots rugby in the UK. #WeDealInReal