Leicester Tigers and England scrum-half Ben Youngs says he is ‘getting his rhythm back’ following a man-of-the-match performance in the 37-0 victory over Italy on Friday evening.
England took on the Azzurri at St James’ Park in their final Rugby World Cup warm-up match and, despite a cagey opening half, scored four converted tries – including scores for Youngs and club mate Ellis Genge – to pull ahead after the break.
For Youngs, who celebrated his 30th birthday on Thursday, a start in the No9 shirt was exactly what the doctor ordered.
“It was a pleasing night, getting my rhythm back,” he explained. “I haven’t played a lot of rugby [recently], I had my shoulder injury and in the last two weeks I’ve been starting to get some game time.
“Tonight felt a little bit more fluid and a little bit better, which was nice.”
Eddie Jones’ men had spent the week before the match in Treviso as part of a second warm weather training camp, and the Tigers Academy graduate said the 31-man squad were now ready for the real thing in Japan.
He said: “We worked hard in Italy and put in a performance tonight, so we’re ready to go away now where the main stuff starts.
“Physically, I think the team are in great shape. We tried to play upbeat tonight, but it was quite hard at times.
“At times we had a nice rhythm and it just got disrupted. I think we had six turnovers between the [halfway line] and their 22, which is unlike us.
“We were doing the right things in terms of making the breaks, but not doing enough in terms of supporting.
“It was a great Test, really, because at times it didn’t always go our way, and we had to figure [things] out at half time. We had a bit of a debrief and came out and were a lot better in the second half.”
Youngs was also quick to praise the more than 50,000 fans who watched on from the stands from England’s first Test at St James’ Park, even if he was a little uncomfortable to take the plaudits for placing the ball on the line for his side’s first try of the evening.
“It’s been awesome,” Youngs explained, when asked about the experience of playing at Newcastle United’s home ground. “It’s nice to come away and play somewhere else, and I thought the crowd were outstanding.
“I’m glad we gave them something to cheer about in the second half.”
“[The try] was only five centimetres out! I can’t really claim too much there – I think there were a couple of big carries before that, but they all count and I’ll take it.”
England’s 31-man Rugby World Cup squad fly to Japan this Sunday, with their opening Pool C match against Tonga scheduled for Sunday, September 22.