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'I'm not going to be Antoine Dupont... I'm going to be a Ben Youngs and the best version of myself'

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Seasoned England scrum-half Ben Youngs has explained he won’t be remodelling his playing style any time soon even though he admits that France’s Antoine Dupont, his direct Guinness Six Nations opponent next Saturday, has taken No9 play onto another level in recent years.


Now 31 and with 107 England caps, Youngs is by far the more experienced of the rival duo who will clash at Twickenham in round four of the championship. Dupont is only 24 with 29 caps since his 2017 debut, but he has lit up the imagination of scrum-half play with his recent form for the French.

“I’m hugely impressed by him,” admitted Youngs, a try-scorer in England’s round three defeat to Wales which has left them limping in fourth place on the championship table with their title defence in ruins. “I looked at Will Genia when he first burst onto the scene, he kind of changed the way that nines played the game.

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“Fast-forward ten years, Antoine Dupont has come along and he will do the same, he will change the way that nines play. He is really flying the flag for scrum-halves. He is the best scrum-half in the world, one of the best players in the world.

“I look forward to the opportunity to play against him. If someone like that when you get the chance to play against him doesn’t bring out the best in you… like I’m excited and I put that pressure on myself to try and perform.

“He is quite unique because he is such a powerful guy for a very compact bloke. Ultimately he is an extremely instinctive player. The French pack once it gets rumbling, he is extremely explosive around the ruck area. He is happy to take guys on and get through those bits of contact because he is a very compact guy.


“Also, his game management is very, very strong as well so he has got the best of both worlds there. I don’t know where he is going to end up, another seven, eight years he is going to be incredible, isn’t he? I can’t compliment him enough. I can recognise talent when I see it, I can recognise a serious player in my position when I see it and he certainly is. I believe he is the best scrum-half in the world.”

Youngs box-kicked to safety when asked to compare his own style of play to what Dupont has delivered for Fabien Galthie’s title-chasing French. “I don’t like to compare because everyone plays differently and you have got to remember as a half-back a lot of what you do is dictated to you by what happens in front of you.

“If your pack is rumbling and it’s going forward obviously it’s a lot easier position to play than if it’s a pack that is getting punished and pushed back. I just think Dupont, I can recognise a guy when he is at the top of his game and really nailing it and he is but I don’t like to compare.

“I’m not going to be Antoine Dupont, I’m not going to be an Aaron Smith, I’m going to be a Ben Youngs and the best version of myself – that is what I need to do and that is what I will continue to do.


“From my and Eddie’s point of view, it’s always been trying to be the best of yourself and what are the areas you can be (best at). You can look at guys. Certainly, you can look at some of the things that they do and see if you can add that to your game but Dupont is extremely powerful around the little contact areas.

“He is a very compact guy, he is a very different shape to me so I haven’t got those genetics, I’m not going to start doing that. I have still got my running game and I do it differently to him.”


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