Ben Youngs: England back on course after learning from early 2018 defeats

England may have been on the wrong end of a 16-15 result against New Zealand, but the feeling among the camp is that their ship is back pointing in the right direction.

Not so long ago the thought of England being in a position to challenge the best in the world – and prove more than competitive as Saturday’s narrow defeat showed – was one drifting further and further towards the horizon, but the national team now appear rejuvenated and with greater squad depth than ever before.

That could not have been said earlier in the year. Three straight defeats in the Six Nations against Scotland, France and Ireland were followed by back-to-back losses in South Africa. But scrum-half Ben Youngs believes such setbacks resulted in England’s up-turn in form as they showed what the side had been doing wrong and where they had fallen behind their rivals.


England vs New Zealand player ratings





1/30 Ben Moon – 7 out of 10

2/30 Dylan Hartley – 7 out of 10

3/30 Kyle Sinckler – 7 out of 10

4/30 Maro Itoje – 7 out of 10

5/30 George Kruis – 6 out of 10

6/30 Brad Shields – 6 out of 10

7/30 Sam Underhill – 8 out of 10

8/30 Mark Wilson – 7 out of 10

9/30 Ben Youngs – 7 out of 10

10/30 Owen Farrell – 7 out of 10

11/30 Jonny May – 7 out of 10

12/30 Ben Te’o – 6 out of 10

13/30 Henry Slade – 7 out of 10

14/30 Chris Ashton – 7 out of 10

15/30 Elliot Daly – 6 out of 10

16/30 Karl Tu’inukuafe – 7 out of 10

17/30 Codie Taylor – 7 out of 10

18/30 Owen Franks – 6 out of 10

19/30 Sam Whitelock – 7 out of 10

20/30 Brodie Retallick – 8 out of 10

21/30 Liam Squire – 5 out of 10

22/30 Ardie Savea – 6 out of 10

23/30 Kieran Read – 7 out of 10

24/30 Aaron Smith – 6 out of 10

25/30 Beauden Barrett – 6 out of 10

26/30 Rieko Ioane – 6 out of 10

27/30 Sonny Bill Williams – 4 out of 10

28/30 Jack Goodhue – 5 out of 10

29/30 Ben Smith – 6 out of 10

30/30 Damian McKenzie – 6 out of 10

1/30 Ben Moon – 7 out of 10

2/30 Dylan Hartley – 7 out of 10

3/30 Kyle Sinckler – 7 out of 10

4/30 Maro Itoje – 7 out of 10

5/30 George Kruis – 6 out of 10

6/30 Brad Shields – 6 out of 10

7/30 Sam Underhill – 8 out of 10

8/30 Mark Wilson – 7 out of 10

9/30 Ben Youngs – 7 out of 10

10/30 Owen Farrell – 7 out of 10

11/30 Jonny May – 7 out of 10

12/30 Ben Te’o – 6 out of 10

13/30 Henry Slade – 7 out of 10

14/30 Chris Ashton – 7 out of 10

15/30 Elliot Daly – 6 out of 10

16/30 Karl Tu’inukuafe – 7 out of 10

17/30 Codie Taylor – 7 out of 10

18/30 Owen Franks – 6 out of 10

19/30 Sam Whitelock – 7 out of 10

20/30 Brodie Retallick – 8 out of 10

21/30 Liam Squire – 5 out of 10

22/30 Ardie Savea – 6 out of 10

23/30 Kieran Read – 7 out of 10

24/30 Aaron Smith – 6 out of 10

25/30 Beauden Barrett – 6 out of 10

26/30 Rieko Ioane – 6 out of 10

27/30 Sonny Bill Williams – 4 out of 10

28/30 Jack Goodhue – 5 out of 10

29/30 Ben Smith – 6 out of 10

30/30 Damian McKenzie – 6 out of 10

“On the back of last season, Eddie touched on it really, a lot of that happened because we are evolving, we are learning about ourselves and now we are seeing the evolution of the team and Saturday was a really good step forward,” Youngs said.

“Now it is really important what we do next week on the back of South Africa, on the back of Saturday, next week becomes vital in terms of how we play.

“Some of those losses previously are probably just context of the game and various moments that we weren’t able to manage better but we are certainly seeing a team that has learnt a lot from those losses.

“Had we won those games would we be where we are now? I can’t answer that but I still feel this team is really in a good position and on the back of the Cape Town win, last week and this…the team, we all sat in changing room afterwards and you could hear a pin drop – there was disappointment, we were at home, we had only lost one game under Eddie and we feel like an opportunity was missed.”

That is quite the seismic shift from the side that was played off the park at Murrayfield and the Stade de France earlier this year, with what was, on paper at least, a stronger outfit than the one that nearly turned over the world champions at the weekend.

But the autumn campaign is showing that the players who have come into the side, such as Newcastle’s Mark Wilson, Bath’s Sam Underhill and Exeter’s Ben Moon, are more than cut out to compete at this level, and perhaps that the difference between those missing through injury and suspension and the ones filling their empty shirts is not as big as was made out last month.

Despite the overriding feeling after Saturday’s defeat being one that felt more like a win than a loss, the disappointment among the squad can only be taken as a good thing.

“Every game we lose is disappointing,” Youngs added. “I felt we certainly had opportunities early on in the second half and we weren’t able to capitalise on that pressure and I felt we piggybacked them slightly at the end of the first half. Those two, the end of the first half and the beginning of second half were really pivotal moments and we weren’t able to either capitalise or stop their momentum.

“Those are probably the areas we will look at mostly because those are probably the ones that cost us. We still could have won at the end.”

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