LONDON (Reuters) - Ben Youngs still looks as if he should be playing in the Under-17s but the fresh-faced England scrumhalf will win his 50th cap in his second Rugby World Cup on Friday and, at 26, is one of the squad’s older statesmen.
Youngs is one of a handful of players used by coach Stuart Lancaster who also featured in the ill-starred Martin Johnson regime and he is really enjoying the atmosphere.
“One of the key changes since 2011 is that a whole new group came in from the start and bought into Stuart’s culture and philosophy,” Youngs told reporters on Wednesday.
“We have an attacking framework and defensive framework. But it is a lot more player-led.
“We have a young group of guys who have no fear. They’re almost too young to have any fear. You can really sense the buzz. Everyone knows it is coming — Friday night.”
Youngs made his debut as a replacement under Johnson in the Six Nations draw with Scotland at Murrayfield in March 2010.
His first start was a memorable one as he helped England to beat Australia in Sydney three months later.
He was a regular during the 2011 World Cup that ended for England with a meek quarter-final defeat by France and was one of the relatively few survivors from that campaign who featured in Lancaster’s first match against Scotland in 2012.
Constantly under pressure from Danny Care, Richard Wigglesworth and Lee Dickson, Youngs has had to be consistently at the top of his game and his combination of sharp passing and spiky prompting around the scrum have kept him at the front of the queue.
His two British and Irish Lions appearances in Australia in 2013 have pushed his international tally to 51 tests but it will be a proud moment on Friday.
“It’s a wonderful honour to get a 50th cap in the opening game,” said Youngs, whose hooker brother Tom will win his 25th in the same game.
“Chris (Robshaw) will lead the boys out. I don’t need to do that. The biggest thing I am proud about is getting to 50 caps while competing with some top players.”
Editing by Ed Osmond