Steve Borthwick has underlined the effort and sacrifices made by the Leicester Tigers scrum-half Ben Youngs to break the England men’s appearance record on Saturday.
“He’s brilliant, absolutely brilliant,” was the Leicester head coach’s assessment of Youngs, who went past Jason Leonard after coming on as a 62nd-minute replacement against Wales, earning his 115th cap for his country.
“I think we all know what a quality player he is. For me the thing that stands out is being able to perform at that level for that length of time. And what that takes. Not just for him but for his family as well.
“All of his family must be so proud of him. We’re very proud of him. We’re just delighted for him.”
Youngs’ services were not needed at club level this weekend as Leicester beat Gloucester 35-23 at Welford Road – their 15th win from 17 matches – to move 16 points clear at the top of the Premiership table. But Borthwick will hope the Rugby Football Union releases Youngs to compete in London for a second week in succession when Leicester take on second-placed Saracens away.
“They’re the best team in the league,” Borthwick said of the club he represented 144 times, captaining them to their first league triumph in 2011 when they beat Leicester 22-18 at Twickenham. “Look at the squad they’ve got, the resources they’ve got, how long the team has been together. They’ve got incredible ability.”
Saracens did not play this past weekend and this will be the third time this season the Tigers will face a team fresh from a bye. Borthwick would not be drawn into an exchange on the matter – “I don’t write the fixture list,” he grumbled – but it does make his task that much more difficult, especially if he will be without internationals Ellis Genge, Freddie Steward, George Ford and Youngs who all helped England see off Wales 23-19.
Then again, perhaps not. The last time they met on a rainy day in Leicester, Saracens had enjoyed their first bye of the campaign. It didn’t help. The Tigers’ driving maul won a penalty try after 80 minutes, snatching a 13-12 victory.