Johnson's dynamos are Youngs at heart

Youth, they say, is wasted on the young. Never in Australian rugby and now, it appears, not in England either. Notorious for their mistrust of youth, England's inspiration yesterday came from the cradle.

Let us take, as the primary example, one of the great tries scored by England. When Tom Palmer turned over Will Genia, Australia's scrum-half, the lock's feet were on his own line. Ben Youngs had a vital decision to make – kick clear or pass into a big blind side. It was a decision worthy of comparison with that made by France's Pierre Berbizier and Serge Blanco, in precisely the same area occupied by Youngs, in the 1991 Grand Slam decider. They created a miraculous try for Philippe Saint-André.

But 19 years ago, Blanco and Berbizier were among the most experienced of Frenchmen. Youngs celebrated his 21st birthday in September, he was making only his third start for England and his decision was neither to kick nor to pass but to sell a dummy and run. Outside him were Courtney Lawes, 21 (third start) and Chris Ashton, 23 (fifth start). All three made brilliant decisions, Youngs and Lawes in the timing of the pass, Ashton in his use of acres of space to beat Drew Mitchell on an 80-metre run-in.

Remember, too, that when England beat Australia in Sydney in June, the try-scorers were Youngs and Ashton. Youngs, the man of the match, does not know what it is to start a Test against any side other than the No 1 (New Zealand) or No 2 (Australia) in the world.

"He's just a really mature guy," said Martin Johnson, England's manager. "He's played very, very well and the good thing is he's only 21, he'll get better." All of which runs contrary to received opinion, 10 months away from the seventh World Cup, that global success hinges on experience.

Australia have form where youth is concerned. In 1947 a 21-year-old centre, Trevor Allan, took over the leadership of the Wallabies in Britain, Ireland and France. Think of those talented backs of the 1970s, Tony Melrose and Russell Fairfax; the trust placed in Nick Farr-Jones and Michael Lynagh on the Grand Slam tour of 1984; the emergence of the teenaged centres Tim Horan and Jason Little in 1989.

Their back division yesterday had an average age of 23 and had been good enough to beat New Zealand and Wales. Robbie Deans, Australia's head coach, was content at last to give the goal-kicking to the 20-year-old James O'Connor, his match-winner in Hong Kong against the All Blacks a fortnight ago.

O'Connor kicked three and missed four, a tally brought into stark relief by Toby Flood's 100 per cent return. This has been Australia's Achilles heel for too long. O'Connor had the courage to take over from Matt Giteau, ahead of Quade Cooper and Kurtley Beale who are 22 and 21 respectively.

England's trust in youth was reflected in their style of play. As against New Zealand a week earlier they came to play rugby, not to break Australia on the rack of the scrum. In Perth and Sydney in the summer, they dominated the Wallaby scrum; here there were seven scrums in the game, all of which resulted in a penalty or free-kick and gave no platform from which to perform.

That the scrum was a weapon used to good effect against the All Blacks remains true but England's triumph here was the width with which they played. Johnson was at pains to praise the contributions of Mark Cueto (who must have run Youngs close for the individual award), Shontayne Hape and Mike Tindall but his young men took better options.

Early in the game, Youngs ran from defence with Tindall and Flood in an attack which reached Australia's 22, tracked over 60 metres by Ashton who had to come from right to leftto offer support. This new generation will make future opponents think of England ina manner that, hitherto, has seldom been required. The occupants of the cradle are growing up fast.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions