England vice-captain Ellis Genge has paid tribute to his teammate with club and country Ben Youngs, who will become the men’s national team’s most capped player if he comes off the bench against Wales in the Six Nations at Twickenham on Saturday.
If all goes according to plan, Youngs will earn his 115th cap this weekend, passing legendary prop Jason Leonard, who retired in 2004.
Eddie Jones has named his squad for Thursday’s game, with Youngs remaining as a substitute, after coming off the bench for Harry Randall in the win over Italy 11 days ago.
Genge is full of praise for Youngs, with whom he plays at Leicester. The prop chose Youngs’ decision to pull out of two British and Irish Lions tours to be with his family (his brother Tom’s wife, Tiff, has suffered a serious illness).
“I have so much respect for the guy,” Genge said. “I can’t describe it. The things he sacrificed to achieve what he achieved in rugby, and the things he gave up that most people wouldn’t care about, like staying home for the Lions tours to support his brother and his family. He’s a f*****g legend, I love him to pieces, he’s a great guy.
“For someone who does it 115 times on the weekends everything is fine and then plays around 200 times for the club as well, that’s over 300 senior games, not counting amateur play… he’s so much fun to rub shoulders.
“You’d think he’d be sick of it, but he comes in everyday with a smile no matter what you do, hugs you and always pushes you to do your best. I’m not going to stay here and tell you he’s the most diligent guy, does all this secret stuff to make his career long and prosperous, he’s not and he would tell you that himself.
“’Len’ never took himself too seriously. He put his head down, did what he had to do, then went above and beyond to achieve his goals: to be himself.
“In public he probably doesn’t give much, he’s a bit different. He is a larger than life character, full of energy, who respects the standards.
Manu Tuilagi and captain Courtney Lawes return to the England squad against Wales, and Kyle Sinckler is also starting to earn his 50th cap.