Flood hails Youngs as next England No 9

Worcester 18 Leicester 39
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The Independent Online

Poor old Danny Care. Just when he thought he finally had the England No 9 jersey to himself, along comes another young pretender with the World Cup looming just over the horizon.

The rise of Ben Youngs to prominence this season has been startling and if he continues on his upward curve, Care – who started all five of England's matches in this year's Six Nations – should really begin to worry.

Youngs, the Leicester scrum-half, has all the qualities required to make the England manager Martin Johnson sit up and take note. They were all on display at Sixways on Saturday – quick, no-nonsense delivery from the breakdown; on-the-money passing; the knowledge of when to pass and when to run; and, last but not least, those sniping breaks that are the trademark of all great inside-halves.

His 50th-minute try, when he spotted a gap in Worcester's defence and left flanker Tom Wood grasping at thin air to race over from 30 yards, made it 23-15 and helped kill off the match off as a contest. It was Youngs at his best.

It left Toby Flood, the incumbent England fly-half who plays alongside Youngs in what has quickly become the Guinness Premiership's most potent half-back combination, purring.

Flood, probably to Care's chagrin, indicated he would now like to replicate his Leicester partnership with Youngs at international level, with this summer's tour to Australia the first chance to do that.

"I hope we can," said the fly-half, who partnered Care during England's Six Nations defeat by France last week. "You only need to look at the try he scored to see it's all pretty instinctive for him. When he gets the ball, he knows exactly what he's doing. Youngs is a real big talent. He just needs to be nurtured through. He's only going from strength to strength and this time next year he'll be double the player."

England are blessed with mischievous scrum-halves – Care, Joe Simpson, Paul Hodgson to name but three. Youngs, though, could be a cut above.

He and Flood, who booted 24 points with nine successive kicks from 10 attempts, combined to put another nail in Worcester's Premiership coffin.

Jeremy Staunton, in the seventh minute, and James Grindal, with the game's last act, all crossed for the Tigers. They stay at the top, two points above Northampton, while Worcester have five games to avoid relegation.

"We were right in it until Youngs made that break for his try," said Mike Ruddock, Worcester's director of rugby, whose side were only 13-12 behind at half-time. "The players are hurting but they're still positive. I know it sounds like coach-talk but, ultimately, if we perform better at the line-out and at the penalty count, we'll win games."

Scorers: Worcester: Penalties Walker (6); Leicester: Tries Staunton, Youngs, Grindal; Conversions Flood (3); Penalities Flood (6).

Worcester: C Latham; R Gear, A Grove, D Rasmussen (G King, 72), M Benjamin; W Walker (M Jones, 77), J Arr; A Black (J Page, 72), A Lutui (C Black, 75), T Taumoepeau (O Sourgens, 69), G Rawlinson, C Gillies (G Kitchener, 50), T Wood (C Cracknell, 65), K Horstmann, P Sanderson (capt, C Cracknell 59-65).

Leicester: J Staunton; S Hamilton, M Smith (A Forsyth, 79), A Allen (B Twelvetrees, 69), A Tuilagi; T Flood, B Youngs (J Grindal, 79); M Ayerza (B Stankovich, 65), M Davies (G Chuter, 66), D Cole (J White, 77), G Parling, B Kay, T Croft, J Crane (B Deacon, 72), L Moody (capt, C Newby, 70).

Referee: A Small (London).