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Ben Youngs in action for England

He has earned more England caps than any man and has just been called up to the national squad by a head coach he won a Premiership title with just months ago, yet Ben Youngs refuses to take his ambitions of playing in a fourth World Cup for granted.

Less than a month ago, the experienced playmaker was being called upon at club level by Borthwick.

Still, Youngs does not see that level of familiarity as any reason to feel assured of his place on the international stage – one he has graced for more than a decade – with the World Cup in France less than eight months away.

“It doesn’t guarantee anything,” Youngs told BBC Sport.

“I don’t think there is any reason for them to pick guys because they worked with them. They are international coaches now – they have a huge player pool to choose from.

“At this stage I have to play as well as I can for Tigers and if I get to play for England in the next nine months, that will be fantastic.”

‘Hunger for international rugby not changed’

This year’s tournament in France has been a “sharp focus” for Youngs from the moment he and his crestfallen England team-mates watched South Africa celebrate their World Cup final win against them in Yokohama in 2019.

“My hunger to play internationally hasn’t changed,” he said. “My long-term goal ever since coming back from 2019 was wanting to make the next one.

“That hasn’t changed, regardless of Steve going in or if (former coach) Eddie (Jones) was still there. It’s irrelevant.

“Whether I make it or not, I don’t now. It’s not going to stop me from trying to achieve that.

“The World Cup is literally a stone’s throw away, and I feel like I can still add.”

Youngs, who became England’s most-capped male player in last year’s Six Nations and has taken that record to 121 appearances, missed last summer’s tour of Australia after a taxing season on and off the pitch.

Tiffany Youngs, the wife of his brother and former club and country team-mate Tom, passed away just weeks before Tigers won their 11th Premiership title, and first for nine years.

Staying ‘fresh’ and breaking record

His return for the autumn internationals saw him share the number nine shirt with Tigers team-mate Jack van Poortvliet.

Again they have been called up together, with Northampton’s uncapped scrum-half Alex Mitchell also named in the Six Nations squad by Borthwick.

“When you have guys like Jack coming in and driving it and pushing himself, you get dragged with it and vice versa,” Youngs said.

“We have always looked at it, myself and Jack, as a seamless 80-minute game at nine. Whether he starts and I finish, or the other way around, it should look consistent for the 80 minutes – how we play should be smooth.

“We look at it with pride if we deliver in 80 minutes. Team work and working together is really important.

“We try to do it here at the club and hopefully we get the opportunity to do it for England.”

Youngs said the break he was afforded in the summer, and the duties he has shared with Van Poortvliet and Richard Wigglesworth – before the 38-year-old retired as a player to take over as Tigers interim head coach – have helped him “stay fresh”.

This being a player who has been part of Tigers’ senior squad for 16 years, and who equalled the club’s appearance record in the European Champions Cup when he started in last week’s win at Clermont.

If he lines up against Ospreys on Friday, Youngs will surpass Geordan Murphy as the club’s most-capped player in Europe’s top-tier.

With a place in the knockout stage of the continent’s most prestigious competition already secured, Youngs hopes the English title holders can challenge for the coveted piece of silverware they have failed to win since retaining the crown in 2002.

They have twice reached the final since, losing in 2007 and 2008, and were most recently beaten in the second-tier European Challenge Cup final in 2021.

“When you really look at it, Leicester are renowned as a European force but we haven’t actually won it for absolutely years,” Youngs said.

“When you look at it like that, we are actually not a European giant really. I’d love the opportunity to go far in Europe and win it.

“It’s something I don’t feel we have ever got close to doing while I’ve been here. It we got that opportunity, it would be hard to beat as far as club stuff goes.”

Source: BBC

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