England scrum-half Ben Youngs says cutting out chocolate and Eddie Jones’ regime of tough love have been key to his impressive run of form.
Jones singled out Youngs and Courtney Lawes as his players of the autumn series with the Leicester No.9 now England’s first-choice scrum-half. Youngs was crowned Man of the Match for his role in England’s 37-21 win over Australia on Saturday with the award testament to his off-field work.
The England coach is renowned for doing things a little differently when it comes to putting his point across. With Youngs he delivered an abrupt message to the scrum-half when he first took on the job with Leicester coach Richard Cockerill revealing the No.9 was told, bluntly: “You’re too fat not sharp enough”.
Jones chucked a bag of sweets at Youngs to reinforce his point but the scrum-half responded by working harder than ever on his conditioning.
“When I turned up he said you need to be lighter, you need to be leaner,” Youngs said. “The way the game is going it is quicker and faster and he needed me to operate at a higher level than what I was operating at.
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“When a coach tells you to lose a couple of kilos there could be a lot worse things to work on. Just cut down on portions and you are near enough there. We do that and he doesn’t mind giving some banter to the boys.”
Youngs added: “I am really enjoying my rugby and that’s credit to, that’s thanks to Eddie, I guess. He’s got this attacking framework, it’s enjoyable to play in, he’s given this side belief, he’s given individuals confidence — and he’s not letting me have any chocolate — it seems to be working anyway, so we’ll continue to do it.”
Jones said Youngs put his hand up for the British & Irish Lions scrum-half berth with his “masterful” performance against the Wallabies.
The England coach said: “He was really good — I am glad he knocked back that bag of lollies — it was a really good decision by him.”
Youngs now returns to Leicester. He says the schedule is “relentless” but it is something the England players have become accustomed to as they look to transfer international form on to the domestic scene before shifting attention to the Six Nations.
“When we next meet, we’ve got to make sure we’re turning up a better side than when we left,” Youngs said. “That’s the attitude and mindset of the side, and that’s been driven from Eddie and other players have started to drive that, and it’s filtering all the way through to the 31.
“You look at the side and there’s some guys that have been missing this whole tournament and other guys have stepped in. Obviously Billy [Vunipola] was a big loss for us – Nathan [Hughes] just grew in the game and got better and better, by the end of it looked like he’d been out there for a number of years.
“It’s a really exciting time to be a part of this England team.”
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Chocolate ban propelled Ben Youngs to next level
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