Ben Youngs believes England have set the blueprint with mix of grit and flair

WITH 108 Test caps to his name, there are not many things Ben Youngs has not seen on the international rugby stage.

England's Ben Youngs: Happy with performance.

England’s most capped scrum-half has experienced plenty since debuting in 2010 and has a clear sense of what is happening around him, not least the ebbs and flows of games.

Indeed, that is central to his job as the accomplished No 9 looks to pilot his side around the field, negotiating pitfalls and exploiting space.

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It also means he is able to give a detailed assessment of where England are ahead of the final round of this 2021 Six Nations. Saturday’s performance against France earned plenty of praise as Eddie Jones’s side prevailed 23-20 through Maro Itoje’s late try at Twickenham.

It was not so much praise for the win – which was much-needed after defeats to Scotland and Wales – but for the style of the display; the Red Rose were bold, adventurous and exciting.

It was such a departure from what was thrown up in the opener against Scotland when England did not seem to want to pass the ball even with glaringly obvious overlaps in their favour.

In Cardiff, there had been signs of improvement but some infamous refereeing calls allied to ill-discipline undid them.

Against France, though, there was some thrilling passages, particularly in the first half before the hosts then dug deep in a tense second period to claw their way back in.

Youngs, 31, said: “I was most pleased about the character we showed. I always felt it was building and we were one ruck away, one pass away, one quick ball away from breaking down the dam.

“But every time we did get that close there was a jackal or a holding on and we didn’t quite get it right and they’d get down the other end. But it never fazed us and we were always onto the next thing. We were constantly at them in the right way.

“I’m hugely proud of that; we did it the tough way and showed a lot of character.”

Getting the blend of play right – the mix of grit and flair – is England’s holy grail and, as they prepare to round off against Ireland on Saturday, Youngs admitted the display against France is something that should be delivered more consistently.

The British Lion added: “We’re trying to get that balance right – and the balance against France was just about where we want it to be.

“Against Wales, we did a lot of good things. We played well. I know the reasons why we perhaps didn’t get the result but this time the balance of kick, of run of pass and counter attack was really good . That blend seemed to click nicely and I felt everyone was pushing on every phase. We probably haven’t hit the heights in our defence like we normally have and we still want to put teams under huge amounts of pressure there.

“But certainly attack-wise, that balance was about right. I’m pleased as we’ve worked hard in training; it wasn’t a case of rewriting the script on Monday and performing like that.

“We’ve been trying to attack like that since the aautumn. It’s just taken a long while for some of that to come through but this was a really good blueprint of not far off what we want look like, more consistently.”

There is no title to fight for in Dublin and Youngs conceded: “It’s disappointing we didn’t hit the straps we should have done at the start of the tournament; we’d have loved to have been going to Dublin with something to win.

“But we’ve shown what we’re about now and have opportunity to do it again this week.”

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