Ben Youngs helps Red Roses tune up for Twickenham clash with Ireland

The Leicester scrum half worked with England’s trio of nines ahead of Saturday’s Women’s Six Nations fixture

Harry Latham-Coyle
Wednesday 17 April 2024 15:07 BST
Lucy Packer, Ben Youngs, Natasha Hunt and Ella Wyrwas worked together at England’s Pennyhill Park training base
Lucy Packer, Ben Youngs, Natasha Hunt and Ella Wyrwas worked together at England’s Pennyhill Park training base (England Rugby)

The Red Roses’ scrum halves have been aided in their preparations for Saturday’s Women’s Six Nations clash with Ireland by a specialist session from Ben Youngs, England’s most-capped male player.

England return to Twickenham in round four a year on from breaking the attendance record for a women’s rugby fixture in their grand slam decider against France, with a crowd of around 50,000 expected.

John Mitchell’s side are unbeaten and favourites to defend their championship crown for a sixth successive year, and have enjoyed extra support from a larger coaching group during this tournament.

Jamie George worked with England’s hookers at Pennyhill Park, England’s training base, ahead of the Wales game in round two, with Youngs now providing his experience and expertise to the three scrum halves in Mitchell’s squad.

With attack coach Lou Meadows and kicking consultant Andy Holloway watching on, Natasha ‘Mo’ Hunt, Lucy Packer and Ella Wyrwas worked particularly on their box kicking as they gear up for Saturday’s fixture.

“It was really good,” Packer, who is in line to retain her place on the bench, told The Independent shortly after the session. “I hope we get to do it more because I took a lot from it. It’s nice to learn from his experience.

“Weirdly, there was a bit of pressure as well. We are all competitive, so we got Ben involved in some games as well. I really enjoyed it.”

Youngs concluded his international career after last year’s Rugby World Cup, winning his 127th and final cap against Argentina in Paris.

Like George, he worked closely with Mitchell during the New Zealander’s time as defence coach on Eddie Jones’ staff. While unlikely to be a regular arrangement, the Red Roses head coach believes that targeted visits can prove beneficial for all.

Lucy Packer and England return to Twickenham on Saturday (Getty Images)

“I think the guys can offer a lot, and we can have good cross-pollination between the specialist players,” Mitchell said after George’s visit in March. “It’s not something that we’ll try and do in abundance but the nines will also probably benefit from some kicking connections as well. I think it’s a starting point, which is fantastic.”

England will be without hooker Amy Cokayne for the fixture against Ireland after the Leicester Tigers front-rower was given a one-match ban.

Cokayne, making her return from injury, was shown two yellow cards during the 48-0 win over Scotland in Edinburgh. A Six Nations disciplinary committee determined that a two-week entry point was appropriate, with the full 50% mitigation applied, leaving Cokayne available for the potential grand slam decider against France in Bordeaux next week.

Ireland were impressive in picking up a first victory of the campaign against Wales, and Scott Bemand has urged his side to come out firing against the tournament’s dominant side.

“We’ll go after firing our shots, getting our game out there,” former England assistant Bemand said on Tuesday. “We’ll hopefully advance our game and what our game can tolerate.

Former England assistant Scott Bemand is now in charge of Ireland (Getty)

“We know some things the English will go after and we know that we’ve built an environment and a playing style that can tolerate it. We’ll try and get some shots out there.

“It’s nice to take the confidence from winning. We’ve got to enjoy winning, that’s fine. But we find if you’re stable and consistent with how you review and preview and go after your own performance, you can kind of not get rattled if you pick up a loss.

“And the trick is not to get too giddy if you pick up a win. There are still bits in the game that we left a bunch of points out there last week. So we’re still going to go after the bits that are going to continually make us better.”

Confirmation is expected soon that England will face the Black Ferns at Twickenham ahead of the second edition of WXV in the autumn, with another clash with France also planned. The Rugby Football Union (RFU) hopes to fill the home of English rugby for next year’s World Cup final.

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