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'He's just a f***in legend, I love him to bits'

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Adrian Dennis/PA Images via Getty Images)

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Ellis Genge has paid tribute to Ben Youngs, his Leicester teammate who is set to become the most capped England of all time when he makes his 115th appearance for his country this Saturday against Wales in the Guinness Six Nations. First capped in 2010, the scrum-half pulled level in Rome with the 114-cap benchmark set by Jason Leonard in 2004.

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Having made that record-equalling run from the England bench in the round two win over Italy, Youngs is now set to be restored to the starting line-up to face the Welsh when Eddie Jones names his team at 11:30am on Thursday. 

It will be quite an amazing achievement for the 32-year-old to set the new caps mark and loosehead Genge, who has just 33 caps compared to the centurion, struggled to best sum up the milestone Youngs is about to pass.

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“I was just asked about this on the BBC and it took me about ten minutes to answer,” he quipped when asked to best describe Youngs, his England and Leicester pal. “I’ll try and give you as much detail as I can without going on. 

“He probably doesn’t give it away. He is a bit different with the press but he is a larger-than-life character, full of energy, always driving standards. Like I said to the BBC, for someone who has done it 115 times, providing the weekend goes ahead, 200-odd times for his club as well, that is over 300-odd senior games not bearing in mind the amateur games – he is just so much fun to be around. 

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“You think you would get bored of it but he turns up every day with a smile on his face regardless of what he is doing, puts his arm around you and is always pushing you to do your best. I have just got so much respect for the bloke. Honestly, as I said to the last guy, I can’t describe it. I have just got so much respect for the bloke, all the stuff that he sacrificed to achieve what he has achieved in rugby and also the stuff that he gave up which most people would take an arm off for. To stay at home on those Lions tours to support his brother and his family, he’s just a f***in’ legend, I love him to bits. A good guy.”

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Youngs’ older brother Tom, a predecessor of Genge as Leicester captain, has taken an indefinite leave from the game to care for his wife Tiffany as she battles serious illness having previously recovered from Hodgkin’s lymphoma. In 2017 Ben withdrew from the Lions squad for New Zealand to support his family and four years later he ruled himself out of contention for South Africa, again to provide assistance to Tom and Tiffany.

“What explains his longevity? At scrum-half you don’t take too much contact” continued Genge. “Probably that helps. After that, I ain’t going to sit here and tell you he is the most diligent bloke in terms of recovery and does all these secret tricks to make his career long and prosperous. It’s not the case. He’d tell you that himself.

“Ben has always not taken himself too seriously, got his head down, done what he needs to do and then obviously gone above and beyond to achieve his goals just being himself. It’s a good blueprint for anyone else coming through. You don’t have to be a carbon cutout of anyone else, just do your own thing and that hopefully takes you all the way.”

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