Six Nations: Ben Youngs says enough time left to make England World Cup contender

Ben Youngs has ruled out any sense of panic after England continued their countdown to the next World Cup with another underwhelming Six Nations.

France's Antoine Dupont gets away from England's Jamie George to score his side's third try at the Stade de France Picture: Adam Davy/PA
France's Antoine Dupont gets away from England's Jamie George to score his side's third try at the Stade de France Picture: Adam Davy/PA

Twelve months after finishing fifth, England have slumped to the same number of defeats – three – but have clinched third place behind Grand Slam champions France and their closest rivals Ireland.

While France were busy taking an important step in their development by claiming a first title since 2010, thereby issuing a statement ahead of the World Cup they are hosting next year, Eddie Jones’s men were regressing in the wake of a successful autumn.

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Only 18 months remain to develop from a middling northern hemisphere side into a force capable of challenging for South Africa’s global crown, but Youngs insists there is time to bridge the gap.

England scrum half Ben Youngs . Picture: Glyn Kirk/PA

“The results haven’t been what we’d have liked, but there’s definitely no need to panic,” the Leicester scrum-half said.

“What I see is a group of experienced players and young players, an incredible coaching staff who are really clear about where we want to go and how we get there.

“It takes a bit of time to get there and we’re not there yet.

“I’m the first to say we’re not where we want to be, but I’m certainly not sitting here wondering if we’ll get to where we want to get to. I truly believe we will.”

UNDER PRESSURE: England head coach Eddie Jones - pictured at the Stade de France Picture: Adam Davy/PA

Jones has been criticised for what some perceive as a willingness to sacrifice the Six Nations in pursuit of lifting the Webb Ellis trophy, but Youngs insists 2022 is about turning the next generation into established internationals.

“The balance is that we want to be successful every time we take the field,” he added.

“There’s also an understanding we’ve got a young group of players in certain positions and they’re learning game by game.”

“I thought Freddie Steward was outstanding again against France on Saturday. He goes from strength to strength, but he’s only got 10 caps.

“France was probably the biggest game he’s ever played in and it’s the same for Marcus Smith, Harry Randall and Joe Marchant. You’ve got guys who are in at the deep end and they’re learning quick.

“The understanding right now is we’ve got a group of players, experienced and young, and it’s about trying to get the youth up to speed with the experience and the experience trying to help the youth as quickly as possible.”

Once again a key English failing has been exposed over the last two months – the threequarters’ lack of a direct carrier with the muscle to break the gainline, a role that only the often-injured Manu Tuilagi seems capable of filling.

“We probably missed a bit of punch in our backs – that little bit of punch that’s really going to get us over that gainline like Jonathan Danty does for France,” Youngs said.

“Manu is someone we’ve traditionally used to give us that gainline and direction.”