- Ben Youngs looks back over the past couple of years against the Irish
- England will need to take their chances on Saturday
To play each game as it comes and not focus on past results is easier said than done in rugby, especially when you are on the losing end. Ahead of any RBS 6 Nations clash past results are dug up, rivalries stirred and the statistics are laid out bare in front of each team.
For England last year at Twickenham, Ireland were the team in question and the stats were definitely in favour of the men in green. In seven of the eight previous meetings, the Irish had walked away with victory.
At half time England were a mere three ahead but from then on Stuart Lancaster's side had clocked up 24 points to three to run out 30-9 winners, thanks in part to replacement scrum half Ben Youngs who went over for a fine individual effort.
The opportunist try was a redemptive score for the 23-year-old, who by his own admission suffered a "tough time" during the 2012 tournament, losing his starting role to Lee Dickson.
“There was a lot of emotion after that as it had been a bit of a tough time for me on a personal note. When I scored it was nice and I was really pleased,” said Youngs, who has started the last three Tests. “The hard work had all been done before I came on though – the scrum was outstanding that day as well as our willingness to chase the ball.
“Ireland had played four games in a row I think and were a little bit fatigued, and I think we wanted it a little bit more. For Ireland I think they felt their Six Nations were over and they had nothing to play for – we played for getting pride back in the shirt and that helped.”
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While Youngs and many of his teammates know how to defeat Ireland, Stuart Lancaster's men must be mindful of their last competitive visit to Dublin, in 2011. That March evening Martin Johnson's England were on course for a Grand Slam until suffering a 24-8 humbling, a game Youngs remembers well.
“It was an occasion of huge excitement,” says Youngs. “To chase any Grand Slam is exciting and obviously we wanted it but in the first 20 minutes we were blown out of the water by Ireland and then we were always playing catch up.
“Territorially they played in the right areas and played with a huge amount of tempo. They put us under pressure. That was us before in the previous games but we were not able to do that against them."
Youngs was yellow carded in the first half of the defeat, throwing the ball into the crowd to prevent Ireland taking a quick throw near the England try line. The Leicester Tigers man feels that negative experience has made him a better player as he approaches his first visit back to the Aviva Stadium.
“I was two years less wise than now," he said. "It was my first proper Six Nations and I learnt a lot of lessons that day. It has made me a much better player for it but at the time it was very tough.”
While the outcomes were vastly different on an individual and collective level in 2011 and 2012, the consistent factor was that the team which dominated at the breakdown and played with tempo came out on top.
Youngs was in fine form during England's opening match of the 2013 tournament, gorging himself on the quick ball served up by the England forwards and delivering scoring passes for the England's first two tries through Chris Ashton and Billy Twelvetrees.
But with Ireland earning a fine 30-22 victory at Grand Slam champions Wales in their opening game, Youngs knows it will be a different proposition away from home, given the regard he has for the likes of Sean O'Brien and Jamie Heaslip.
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“The breakdown is key in attack and defence,” says Youngs. “In defence you want to slow down their ball and in attack you want to get quick ball and play on top of them. That’s one area we want to continue working on as we want to be world leading in that and I think we are really making the right steps.
“However Sean O Brien and Jamie Heaslip are very good back rowers so we have got to have our wits about us. But with our back row, the balance we have and the guys that are able to come off and make an impact I think it’s exciting game for us.
“Ireland had a great autumn, they smashed Argentina and have had a great start to beat Wales in Cardiff; it’s a huge accolade. We will be very wary of the challenges ahead. We have had five games at home so for a young side building towards 2015 it’s a huge challenge. The Aviva stadium is a hard place to go. We have to defend well but in attack we have to take opportunities as there will not be many.”