Youngs eager to face French 'generals'

Fri, 03 Feb 2017 23:19

SIX NATIONS SPOTLIGHT: After England coach Eddie Jones talked of a "war" against France on Saturday, scrumhalf Ben Youngs said opposite number Baptiste Serin was the latest French rugby "general".

Jones may be Australian but he was happy to cite the long history of military conflicts between England and France as evidence of what fans could expect when his Grand Slam champions begin their Six Nations title defence against Les Bleus at Twickenham.  

Yet it was a different sort of history that came to mind for Youngs.

The 27-year-old was not born when his father Nick, also a Leicester and England scrum-half, won the last of his six Test caps in 1984.

Instead one of his childhood rugby heroes was France scrumhalf Dimitri Yachvili.

Youngs and his father were both in the Twickenham crowd in 2005 when Yachvili kicked all of France's points in a remarkable 18-17 win where then world champions England led 17-6 at half-time.

"I still see it as a very special game," said Youngs of matches between England and France.

"I remember going to the game with my dad when Dmitri Yachvili kicked all the points. I was sitting in the stand and my dad was fuming at the ill-discipline."

Whereas the flyhalf is often seen as the key playmaker in the back division, in France the focus is on the scrumhalf, with Bordeaux-Begles's 22-year-old Serin the latest to wear the shirt.

It possibly all began with Jacques Fouroux, a scrumhalf and the captain of France's 1977 Grand Slam team, whose nickname was 'Le Petit Caporal' (the Little Corporal).

But by the time Youngs was watching rugby, France's scrum-half had undergone a huge 'promotion' in rank.

"For me growing up Yachvili, he was the master. I would watch him play for France or Biarritz in the European Cup," recalled Youngs.

"He was a real general. Serin and [Maxime] Machenaud [France's reserve scrumhalf at Twickenham] are both generals in terms of the No 9."

England may be firm favourites to win on Saturday but Youngs saw enough in France's 25-23 and 24-19 home defeats by Australia and New Zealand respectively in November to remain wary of being on the wrong end of some classic 'French flair' rugby.

"They were two points short of Australia and they pushed New Zealand. We know they're a threat for sure," said Youngs, who came off the bench when England beat France 31-21 in Paris last year to clinch the Grand Slam.

"The thing with France is that you could be six points ahead let's say, and it doesn't look like they're breaking you down, but it just takes one or two offloads and they're behind you and they've got you," he added.

"No team has a threat like they do in terms of some of the stuff they can do."

It was England defence coach Paul Gustard, a history buff, who raised the issue of Anglo-French confrontation.

But according to Youngs, he got rather more than he bargained for when wing Jonny May tried to answer a question about what lay behind it all.

"He went 'coz they obviously don't like each other! 'They fell out, 'bad friends', and 'are they not good mates?'

"He was right on cue with that one. Eddie liked it."

Agence France-Presse

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FIXTURE GMT VENUE
Sat, 18 November 2017
Worcester Warriors v Northampton Saints 12h00 Sixways
Italy v Argentina 13h00 Florence
Leicester Tigers v Sale Sharks 14h00 Welford Road
Wales v Georgia 14h30 Cardiff
England v Australia 15h00 Twickenham
Wasps v Newcastle Falcons 15h30 Ricoh Arena
Ireland v Fiji 16h30 Aviva Stadium
Scotland v New Zealand 17h15 Edinburgh
France v South Africa 19h45 Paris
Sun, 19 November 2017
Exeter Chiefs v Harlequins 14h00 Sandy Park
Leicester Tigers v Bath 14h00 Madejski Stadium
Fri, 24 November 2017
Ospreys v Glasgow Warriors 22h00 Liberty Stadium
Ulster v Treviso 18h05 Kingspan Stadium
Leinster v Dragons 18h35 RDS Stadium
Cardiff Blues v Connacht 18h35 Cardiff Arms Park
Newcastle Falcons v Gloucester 18h45 Kingston Park
Leicester Tigers v Worcester Warriors 18h45 Welford Road
Sale Sharks v Northampton Saints 19h00 AJ Bell Stadium
RESULT SCORE
Fri, 17 November 2017
Gloucester v Saracens 23 | 17
Tue, 14 November 2017
France XV v New Zealand 23 | 28
Sat, 11 November 2017
France v New Zealand 18 | 38
Ireland v South Africa 38 | 3
Wales v Australia 21 | 29
England v Argentina 21 | 8
Scotland v Samoa 44 | 38
Italy v Fiji 19 | 10
Sat, 04 November 2017
Cardiff Blues v Zebre 37 | 8
Connacht v Cheetahs 23 | 15
Edinburgh v Ospreys 37 | 10
Barbarians v New Zealand 22 | 31
Kings v Ulster 36 | 43
Japan v Australia 30 | 63
Fri, 03 November 2017
Scarlets v Treviso 20 | 8
SIX NATIONS
MORE LOGS
Team P W D L Pts
England 0 0 0 0 0
Ireland 0 0 0 0 0
France 0 0 0 0 0
Scotland 0 0 0 0 0
Wales 0 0 0 0 0
Italy 0 0 0 0 0