Ben Youngs on England vs Scotland: Victory matters more than a big score in Six Nations

The Calcutta Cup takes place at Twickenham this weekend

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The Independent Online

England have come to view Calcutta Cup games at Twickenham as something of a feast at which they can gorge themselves silly on points: only once during the Six Nations era – in 2011, when the Scotland flanker John Barclay was at his most canine in the dogfight at the breakdown – have they scored fewer than three tries. It is a record that brings its own dangers, according to scrum-half Ben Youngs.

“As Chris Robshaw [the England captain] said in the dressing room after the defeat in Dublin, this championship is not over for us,” Youngs remarked. “He said that the title could come down to points difference, and that it was up to us to get it right against the Scots. Chris spoke really well. It’s a real dampener when things don’t work out for you in tournament rugby, but I think there’s enough character in the side for us to get straight back on the horse.

“However, we can’t just go out there and chase a big points total from the start. A lot of the guys in this team have played in major European club games when an attacking bonus is needed, and experience tells us that you have to win the game first. That will be the priority in this match because meetings with the Scots are always a bit different: they seem more physical and confrontational when they play us and they command respect.”

Youngs sees this as an important week for an England side still stuck in an unsettled phase, with its long injury list and its inexperienced back division. “We can’t afford to go over the top in our reaction to what happened against Ireland – we can’t let young guys like Anthony Watson [the 21-year-old Bath wing] get completely frustrated. We have to look carefully at the tape, make sure we’re all on the same page with our response and build again.

“Ireland was a disappointment, certainly. You can’t go away from home and be as ill-disciplined as we were, conceding penalties and giving the opposition easy ‘outs’. And it was pretty clear that if we’d dealt with the Irish aerial game better than we did, we’d have given ourselves a foothold at an earlier stage than we did. If I was a Scot watching that game, I’d kick a lot on Saturday. There again, we’re determined to learn the lessons from what happened in Dublin.”

 

Given the choice, Youngs and his countrymen would have preferred to head into the home World Cup this autumn with a Grand Slam triumph behind them, just as Clive Woodward’s champion side did in 2003. But a Six Nations title would be the next best thing, and as the scrum-half said, it is hardly beyond the realms of possibility that Wales will reignite this tournament by beating Ireland in Cardiff on Saturday.

“Wales always seem to get better towards the back end of a tournament. It takes them time to generate the right momentum, but when they do they’re more than capable of winning the biggest games,” Youngs said. “So we definitely feel we’re in the mix. And even though we lost in Dublin, we feel we can make a real impact this year if we get back to playing what I call ‘England rugby’ and start overpowering the opposition.

“I spoke about this to Brad Thorn [the World Cup-winning All Black lock now playing alongside Youngs at Leicester]. He mentioned that New Zealand lost to Australia in the 2011 Tri-Nations before going on to win the World Cup. No one remembers that defeat to the Wallabies now.”

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