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Ben Youngs will sign off his England career in Friday’s World Cup bronze final content that the time is right to step out of the Test arena.
The nation’s most capped men’s player with 126 appearances, a veteran of four World Cups, makes his first start of the tournament when England clash with Argentina at the Stade de France.
It brings down the curtain on an outstanding 13-year Test odyssey, the majority of which he has spent as first-choice scrum-half before his slide down the pecking order at France 2023.
“There’s not a part of me that thinks ‘what if’ – I’m absolutely making the right call,” said the Leicester and Lions half-back, who picked out the 2016 series whitewash of Australia as his career highlight.
“It just feels right. I feel so content. The fact I had this in my head for a long time and then I didn’t hesitate about it makes me realise that it’s absolutely the right decision.
“I’ve also got a young family and all the bits that come with that. So it’s just the right time. I will go back and play my club rugby and I look forward to doing that.
“I’ve got great memories, it’s been a great journey. The 13 years goes like that (clicks fingers). It will be nice to finish on a high on Friday.
I’ll look back very fondly and very content. It’s been a great ride and I’m proud of it
“I will miss the adrenalin of running out in front of a full stadium. I’ll actually miss the pressure of big games, when everything is on the line. I’ll miss the build-up to the week, when it’s a big week with your team-mates.
“And I’ll also miss that camaraderie – the common goal of trying to achieve something special within an elite group.
“But, equally, I’ll look back very fondly and very content. One door closes and another one opens.”
When Youngs told Steve Borthwick that it was time to call it a day, he was thanked by the head coach.
In a neat piece of symmetry, Borthwick was also his captain when the 34-year-old made his debut as a replacement for injured wing Ugo Monye against Scotland in 2010.
“I remember (assistant coach) Mike Ford running up and the touchline telling me what to do. It was 15-15. Steve was my captain. It was at Murrayfield,” Youngs said.
“Ugo went off on a stretcher, he was absolutely fine and he played the next week. He was like that character from Jerry Maguire! The game has changed a lot.
“When I got that first one I didn’t think I would be sitting here 13 years later and having the opportunity to end it my way. It’s been a great ride and I’m proud of it.”
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