‘Important character’ Youngs to finally win his 100th cap for England
- Credit: PA
Norfolk’s Ben Youngs will win his 100th England cap in Saturday’s Six Nations title match against Italy armed with sterling endorsements from Eddie Jones and Owen Farrell.
Youngs has been left stranded on 99 appearances for seven months because of the coronavirus pandemic, but at the Stadio Olimpico will join Jason Leonard to become only the second England Test centurion.
Making his debut in 2010, the 31-year-old Lion, from Aylsham, has been his country’s first choice scrum-half for most of the last decade.
“I can only speak with great admiration of Ben. He had a difficult World Cup in 2015 and since then he’s worked extremely hard on his game,” Jones said.
“At his best he’s close to the best half-back in the world. He’s got a great running game, good kicking game and is an important, infectious character in our squad.”
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Jones’ approval is echoed by Farrell, Youngs’ long-term half-back partner who will lead England’s assault on the Six Nations title from fly-half after being picked as chief playmaker for the first time since the World Cup.
“Everybody knows how good a player Ben is. Not only for what he’s doing in recent times, but for how long he’s been doing it,” Farrell said.
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“I remember he was in the England team when I was coming through, he was in at a very young age and stepped up to the plate very quickly. He’s obviously been doing it ever since.
“He’s brilliant to play with, a great driver of energy throughout the team, which is great for a scrum-half. He keeps pace very well and gets the team on the front foot.”
Another milestone will be reached when Jamie George wins his 50th cap and the Lions hooker will lead out the team alongside Youngs.
“It’s a great achievement for Jamie. He had a long apprenticeship under Dylan Hartley and is now fully established as our starting hooker,” Jones said.
Exeter lock Jonny Hill makes his debut alongside Maro Itoje after an influential season at the Chiefs, who completed the double with the 26-year-old a physical presence and accomplished set-piece operator.
There is no place in the 23 for Wasps star Jack Willis, with Ben Earl retaining his place as back row cover on the bench.