Six Nations, England v Wales: Why Youngs attracts admirers ahead of most-capped milestone

Ellis Genge admires the infectious enthusiasm of Ben Youngs as his Leicester team-mate stands on the brink of becoming England’s most capped player.

Youngs is expected to be restored to the starting XV for Saturday’s Guinness Six Nations match against Wales after dropping to the bench for the five-try rout of Italy in round two.

A special milestone awaits the 32-year-old at Twickenham where he will overtake Jason Leonard’s 114 appearances to set a new record for England in the men’s game.

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Beyond the achievement itself, Genge applauds the fact that Youngs has reached the landmark doing it his way – with a smile.

Ben Youngs will set a new appearances record for England against Wales at Twickenham on Saturday in the Guinness Six Nations. Dave Rogers/PA Wire.

“Ben’s a larger-than-life character, full of energy, driving standards. He’s just so much fun to be around,” said Genge.

“You’d think he’d get bored of it, but he turns up every day with a smile on his face regardless of what you’re doing, puts his arm round you and always pushes you to do your best.

“I don’t think anyone thinks he’s done after this weekend. What explains his longevity? Firstly being a scrum-half, he doesn’t take too much contact.

“I can’t see myself making it that long. Probably that helps. I’m not going to tell you he’s the most diligent bloke, does all these secret tricks to make his career long and prosperous. That’s not the case and he’d tell you that himself.

England's current appearances record holder, with 114, Jason Leonard. Picture: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire.

“Ben has never taken himself too seriously. He got his head down, done what he’s needed to do and then gone above and beyond to achieve his goals being himself.

“It’s a good blueprint for anyone else.

“You don’t have to be a cardboard cutout of anyone else.

“Do your own thing and, hopefully, that takes you all the way.”

England and Leicester Tigers prop Ellis Genge (centre) is a big admirer of club-and-country team-mate Ben Youngs. Picture: Adam Davy/PA Wire.

Youngs has been playing despite personal trauma as his older brother Tom, a predecessor of Genge as Leicester captain, takes indefinite leave from the game to care for his wife Tiffany as she battles serious illness having previously recovered from Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

In 2017 Ben withdrew from the Lions squad bound for New Zealand to support his family and, four years later, he ruled himself out of contention for South Africa, again to provide assistance to Tom and Tiffany.

“I’ve got so much respect for the bloke. I can’t describe it,” added Genge.

“The stuff he’s sacrificed to achieve what he’s achieved in rugby, which most people would take an arm off for.

“Like staying at home for the Lions tours to support his brother and his family. He’s a legend. I love him to bits, he’s a great guy.

“When I was Leicester captain, the first thing he said was, ‘I can’t believe our dad is leading the way’.

“He calls me ‘our dad’. Like I said, he doesn’t take himself too seriously.

“We have got this incredible relationship, myself and Ben. We respect each other a lot and he hasn’t said too much, just ‘go out and do your thing mate and we will follow you in’. That is all I needed to hear.”

The Wales clash is also of significance to Genge after he was the victim of online abuse, including death threats, after the same fixture in Cardiff a year ago.

A video emerged of the loosehead prop standing motionless instead of clapping Wales down the tunnel following their 40-24 victory at the Principality Stadium, resulting in wave of vicious criticism that prompted the Rugby Football Union to issue a statement in defence of him and the team.

“You get grief after every game. If I sat there and picked out every message you got from people I’d be here every day. You should take it with a pinch of salt,” Genge said.

“I’m sure these people have got some tough things going on at home, as they’re obviously quite sad and have nothing else better to do than give a Knowle Wester some stick. Good on ’em.”