- Ben Youngs reacts to opportunity against world class Will Genia
- Youngs brothers first siblings to start Lions Test since 1989
Ben Youngs is understandably elated to force his way into the British and Irish Lions starting line-up for the second Test and intends to pour that enthusiasm into an all-action performance against the “best scrum half in the world”.
The Leicester Tigers man has usurped Mike Phillips for the No.9 shirt, with the Wales scrum half dropping out of the match day 23 after a difficult time against Australia’s Will Genia during the 23-21 first Test victory in Brisbane.
Youngs provided a timely reminder of what he can offer with a smooth, sniping try – reminiscent of his score on debut for England against Australia in 2010 – in the victory over the Rebels on Tuesday, but he knows facing Genia is a wholly different proposition.
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“Will is the best nine in the world at the moment, I think he’s set the benchmark,” said the 23 year old. “I really enjoy watching him play and I thought he was exceptional at the weekend and continues to set the standard.
“It’s a great opportunity to play against him – hopefully the back rowers can get hold of him and slow him down a little bit and they can also protect me a bit from their back row.
“Everyone is fighting out for positions in this squad because everyone wants to be involved so it’s always nice when you get the place on merit rather than injuries influencing it. I’m really pleased and want to reward that back by putting in a performance.”
Head Coach Warren Gatland has made five changes to his starting line-up for Melbourne, with, as Youngs suggested, hard-tackling Wales flanker Dan Lydiate drafted in on the blindside with the twin tasks of shutting down Genia and protecting the Lions’ ball-players.
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The other changes see Mako Vunipola, Geoff Parling and Tommy Bowe come in, while Ben’s brother Tom retaining his place at hooker means the England pair become the first siblings to start a Lions Test since Gavin and Scott Hastings in 1989.
And although that fact adds to the swelling of pride for the Youngs family, Ben says the squad are fully focussed on the 80 minutes to come at the Eithad Stadium in Melbourne.
“It means the world to be playing alongside my brother and to do it in a Lions jersey is so rare and unique so I’m not going to get bored of talking about it,” he added. “It’s going to be a very proud moment running out alongside Tom and I really hope we can put in a performance together.
“One thing about this group of players is that we’re tremendously driven – the professionalism and the understanding of what it takes to win is unbelievable. We’ve got guys like Brian O’Driscoll who have been on tours and lost [the series] after winning games. All that experience has to be brought to the table to enable us to win at the weekend.”
Despite Youngs’ rightful respect for Genia, he has been on the winning side both times he’s started against the Wallabies No.9 – the aforementioned 21-20 victory in Sydney in June 2010 and the record 35-18 win at Twickenham five months later. That alone stands as a welcome omen as the Lions aim to secure a first series win in 16 years.