Six Nations

Youngs eager to face French 'generals'

2017-02-04 08:14
Ben Youngs (Getty Images)

Twickenham - After England coach Eddie Jones talked of a "war" against France on Saturday, scrum-half Ben Youngs said opposite number Baptiste Serin was the latest French rugby "general".

Jones may be Australian but he was happy to cite the long history of military conflicts between England and France as evidence of what fans could expect when his Grand Slam champions begin their Six Nations title defence against Les Bleus at Twickenham.

Yet it was a different sort of history that came to mind for Youngs.

The 27-year-old was not born when his father Nick, also a Leicester and England scrum-half, won the last of his six Test caps in 1984.

Instead one of his childhood rugby heroes was France scrum-half Dimitri Yachvili.

Youngs and his father were both in the Twickenham crowd in 2005 when Yachvili kicked all of France's points in a remarkable 18-17 win where then world champions England led 17-6 at half-time.

"I still see it as a very special game," said Youngs of matches between England and France.

"I remember going to the game with my dad when Dmitri Yachvili kicked all the points. I was sitting in the stand and my dad was fuming at the ill-discipline."

Whereas the flyhalf is often seen as the key playmaker in the back division, in France the focus is on the scrum-half, with Bordeaux-Begles's 22-year-old Serin the latest to wear the shirt.

It possibly all began with Jacques Fouroux, a scrum-half and the captain of France's 1977 Grand Slam team, whose nickname was 'Le Petit Caporal' (the Little Corporal).

But by the time Youngs was watching rugby, France's scrum-half had undergone a huge 'promotion' in rank.

"For me growing up Yachvili, he was the master. I would watch him play for France or Biarritz in the European Cup," recalled Youngs.

"He was a real general. Serin and (Maxime) Machenaud (France's reserve scrum-half at Twickenham) are both generals in terms of the No 9."

England may be firm favourites to win on Saturday but Youngs saw enough in France's 25-23 and 24-19 home defeats by Australia and New Zealand respectively in November to remain wary of being on the wrong end of some classic 'French flair' rugby.

"They were two points short of Australia and they pushed New Zealand. We know they're a threat for sure," said Youngs, who came off the bench when England beat France 31-21 in Paris last year to clinch the Grand Slam.

"The thing with France is that you could be six points ahead let's say, and it doesn't look like they're breaking you down, but it just takes one or two offloads and they're behind you and they've got you," he added.

"No team has a threat like they do in terms of some of the stuff they can do."

It was England defence coach Paul Gustard, a history buff, who raised the issue of Anglo-French confrontation.

But according to Youngs, he got rather more than he bargained for when wing Jonny May tried to answer a question about what lay behind it all.

"He went 'coz they obviously don't like each other! 'They fell out, 'bad friends', and 'are they not good mates?'

"He was right on cue with that one. Eddie liked it."

Teams:

England

15 Mike Brown, 14 Jonny May, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Owen Farrell, 11 Elliot Daly, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Nathan Hughes, 7 Tom Wood, 6 Maro Itoje, 5 Courtney Lawes, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Dylan Hartley (captain), 1 Joe Marler

Substitutes: 16 Jamie George, 17 Matt Mullan, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 Teimana Harrison, 20 James Haskell, 21 Danny Care, 22 Ben Te'o, 23 Jack Nowell

France

15 Scott Spedding; 14 Maxime Nakaitaci, 13 Gael Fickou, 12 Remi Lamerat, 11 Virimi Vakatawa; 10 Camille Lopez, 9 Baptiste Serin; 8 Kevin Gourdon, 7 Louis Picamoles, 6 Damien Chouly; 5 Yoann Maestri, 4 Sebastien Vahaamahina; 3 Uini Atonio, 2 Guilhem Guirado (captain), 1 Cyril Baille.

Substitutes: 16 Clement Maynadier, 17 Rabah Slimani, 18 Xavier Chiocci, 19 Arthur Iturria, 20 Loann Goujon, 21 Maxime Machenaud, 22 Jean-Marc Doussain, 23 Yoann Huget

NEXT ON SPORT24X

What To Read Next

 

Read News24’s Comments Policy

Live Video Streaming
Video Highlights
Sport Talk

Vote

Who will win the 2017 Six Nations title?

 
 
Men
Women
Love 2 Meet
Sport24 on Twitter

Follow Sport24 news on Twitter

Featured

The 2017/18 PSL season is under way. Can Bidvest Wits defend their title? Will Soweto giants Kaizer Chiefs or Orlando Pirates emerge victorious? Or will the bookies' favourites, Mamelodi Sundowns, taste success for a record eighth time? Stay glued to Sport24 to find out!

Latest blogs
 

Twitter Follow Sport24 on Twitter

Facebook "Like" Sport24's Facebook page

WIN Enter and win with Sport24!

BlackBerry Stay in the loop on your BlackBerry

RSS Feeds Sport news delivered really simply.

 
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.