Youngs set to equal Wilkinson’s record for most-capped England back
Ben Youngs is set to equal Jonny Wilkinson’s record as England’s most capped back when he is named in the squad for Thursday’s World Cup clash with the USA in Kobe.
Eddie Jones announces his starting XV for the second Pool C encounter on Tuesday morning with Youngs certain to be involved as one of only two scrum-halves taken to Japan.
The 30-year-old will join Wilkinson on 91 caps when he takes the field at the Kobe Misake Stadium, where his Leicester team mate and tighthead prop Dan Cole will reach the same milestone.
Only Jason Leonard and Dylan Hartley, who have made 114 and 97 Test appearances respectively, are more decorated.
“I remember making my first start for England and Jonny was involved and playing in Australia,” Youngs said.
“Jonny’s an icon of the game so to get this accolade is pretty cool. It’s gone quick and I remember when I first started – some of the players like Simon Shaw told me to enjoy it because it would go so fast.
“It has been an enjoyable ride. When you first start out it goes fast and you’re in it and not really sure what’s going on.
“And then you get older and understand what gets you there, how you do it and how you sustain it.
“Getting there is almost the easy bit, the hard bit is sustaining it and staying there and being consistent. It is a really exciting bit of my career.”
Lewis Ludlam’s fairytale four months will continue with his promotion from the bench role he performed against Tonga and into the starting back row for the USA showdown.
It will be the 23-year-old’s fourth cap and comes after he was picked for a senior England squad for the first time in late May, catching Jones’ eye during preparations to face the Barbarians.
“To play in a World Cup is what you work for. To get a chance to start is incredible,” the Northampton flanker said.
“If you’d had told me this time last year that I would be starting in a World Cup game, I would’ve told you you’re crazy.
“Every time you pull on the shirt it could be your last time. It’s a special moment every time and that doesn’t change.
“I wear my heart on my sleeve and I’m a high-emotion player. Eddie just keeps telling me to, ‘rip in, go at it, be yourself and enjoy it’.
“The rest will look after itself and that’s been really good for me. I’m best when the pressure’s off me so I can relax, play my game and rip in.”
England attempted to put a positive spin on their disjointed outing against Tonga, taking refuge in the bonus point and absence of injury, but there were a few dissenting voices in Red Rose ranks.
Scrum coach Neal Hatley described the performance as “scratchy” while hooker Jamie George admitted “there’s frustration in the way we made a lot of mistakes”.