Youngs returns serve to "second fiddle" To'omua as England prepare for tough defensive task

Rugby World Cup
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

England halfback Ben Youngs has returned serve at former Leicester teammate Matt To'omua after the Australian's friendly jibes this week.

To'omua ripped into some of his England opponents when asked on Thursday about his time at Leicester and whether he had any insights on his quarter-final foes.

"Manu (Tuilagi) is a terrible snooker player, George Ford never pays for a beer, Ben Youngs isn’t even the best rugby player in his family, let alone the country," he said, dead pan.

“The chicken, Jonny May, very weird and Dan Cole doesn’t have a personality.”

Youngs' return was swift when asked on Friday whether he had seen To'omua's comments.

"I did, he was very happy with himself, he sent me the video clip," he laughed.

"He's not far wrong on some of it.

"Fordy's never bought a pint because he's normally smoke bombed by that point or probably too drunk, he's actually left the building and I thought it was ironic, he knows what it's like to play second fiddle especially being married to Ellyse Perry, so I feel for him he knows my pain."

Youngs, whose brother Tom is also a professional rugby player, played with To'omua for three seasons at the Tigers and has lined up against him in Tests a host of times.

While there were a few laughs from Youngs, the business of the day was unavoidable on the eve of England’s quarter-final against Australia.

This weekend has brought another round of changes in the Wallabies team with six shifts in Australia’s starting XV and a fourth new halves combination in five weeks.

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has spoken plenty about his team’s desire to be unpredictable and England defence coach John MItchell said his side would have to work as hard as ever to defend that.

“Yeah, they do come through with so many different threats, they are clever and they enjoy playing with width,” he said.

“It certainly makes everyone in our team aware and having to look up and communicate and bringing that energy from the inside is going to be extremely critical.

“But it’s something that is not new to us, it’s something that we pride ourselves on. We’ve just got to work really hard for each other.”

Mitchell said England wouldn’t be underestimating teenager Jordan Petaia, who will starting at 13 as the youngest player in the quarter-final lineups.

Mitchell

“He’s got an extraordinary skill set,” he said.

“We’re well aware of that. He’s tall, he’s got good footwork, he’s got an offload so he’s a dangerous athlete. It would be unthoughtful of us to put all our energies on a teenager and one player.

“Collectively they have an attacking game and their selection is based around their attack.

“Their midfield has the ability to be direct and to distribute as well. We’re ready for all of that."

England’s star centre Manu Tuilagi knows somewhat how Petaia is feeling, having played as a teenager in a Rugby World Cup himself.

The mountainous centre had simple advice for his Saturday opponent.

“Just keep doing what you're doing, “he said.

“It seems to be working. Just enjoy every moment when you get to go out on the field as you never know.”

As for stopping down Samu Kerevi, the man lining up inside Petaia?

Tuilagi said England had to close in on his opposite number.

“He is a big part of their team and we know it is going to be tough and we cannot give him any space,” he said.

“I am looking forward to the battle, I know it is going to be tough.”

Australia will take on England in their Rugby World Cup quarter-final on Saturday October 19, kicking off at 4:15pm local, 6;15pm AEDT, LIVE on Foxtel, Network Ten and via RUGBY.com.au RADIO, Rugby Xplorer and Amazon Alexa.