‘He would tackle anything’ - the coaches that helped make Norfolk’s Ben Youngs a Rugby World Cup star
PUBLISHED: 08:12 02 November 2019 | UPDATED: 09:04 02 November 2019
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If Ben Youngs touches down for England in Saturday’s Rugby World Cup final, he’ll be toasted around the country.
But at one time, cheers for the scrum-half's quick passing and clever kicks were only heard on the touchlines of Norfolk rugby pitches.
And now the coaches, family members and team-mates who helped shape the 30-year-old into a world star have shared their pride at watching his journey to the top.
Youngs, from Aylsham, played for England's U16, U18 and U20 teams before making his senior England debut in 2010, and played for the British and Irish Lions in 2013.
Now, he has 94 caps for England, making him the most capped back in English history.
His father, Nick Youngs, also a scrum-half, never faced South Africa, but was part of a team that beat New Zealand in November 1983. His brother Tom Youngs also has 28 caps for England.
Mike Bush, Youngs' coach from Holt Rugby and Football Club along with Simon Worrall - who taught a generations of Youngs while they studied at Gresham's School in Holt - have spoken of their excitement and nerves ahead of the game against South Africa.
Mr Bush, who taught Ben how to throw and catch a rugby ball when he was just five years old, said: "Ben was always so quick to turn, I put it down to him being so close to the floor as he was very small.
"Even though he was very small, he would tackle anything, any larger boy, it was no problem for him."
Mr Bush added: "Ben has never forgotten where he came from. Only a couple of months ago I was invited to Newcastle for an England game, England rugby had invited all the old coaches as a surprise for the players.
"I remember seeing Ben's face, when he saw me he could not stop smiling. It was amazing having all these coaches and players together in one room. What an amazing moment."
After training with Holt for a total of six years, Youngs began playing rugby at school.
At Gresham's he met his coach, and now uncle, Mr Worrall along with Leicester Tigers academy team-mate, Ben Pienaar.
Mr Worrall said: "Ben was a superb all round sportsman, he used to play cricket, hockey and many other sports, but he was a wizard at rugby.
"He always had a rugby ball in his hand, he didn't need coaching he just needed directing. He was naturally brilliant at rugby.
"One of my favourite memories of Ben was when he was in my hockey team and he got really annoyed that somebody had got past him so he rugby tackled them!"
Mr Worrall, master of rugby at Gresham's, says he feels more nervous than ever about Saturday's game.
He said: "I get very nervous when I watch Ben play, I have to watch it at home. Sometimes I calm my nerves by going on the exercise bike while the match is on."
Mr Pienaar, director of rugby at Gresham's, said: "He was cheeky in school.
"He was that one person that you would go and speak to and you knew you would come away laughing and feeling better than you did before.
"He is very down to earth, but that is just the Youngs family in general."
When talking about Youngs' England success, Mr Bush said: "I didn't make Ben Youngs successful, he did that himself."
Both North Walsham Rugby Club and Holt Rugby Club will be holding breakfast events at the respective club houses for the final.