Matt Dawson tips Ben Youngs to start ahead of young gun Harry Randall for England against Wales

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New England still need some older heads in key roles, which is why Ben Youngs has been tipped to reclaim a starting place for his landmark occasion on Saturday.

Leicester’s veteran scrum-half is poised to break the English Test caps record held by Jason Leonard against Wales at Twickenham. 

For the 32-year-old, the home Six Nations fixture will bring a 115th appearance for his country — a staggering feat which he is determined to build on as he strives to extend his international career through to the World Cup in 2023.

Matt Dawson has tipped Ben Youngs (pictured) to start ahead of Harry Randall against Wales

Bristol¿s Harry Randall (pictured) started in a half-back alliance with Marcus Smith against Italy

Matt Dawson has tipped Ben Youngs (left) to start ahead of Harry Randall (right) against Wales

But, as has been the case so often recently, Youngs’ place in the team is the subject of intense scrutiny. In Rome, Bristol’s Harry Randall started in a half-back alliance with Marcus Smith which generated much excitement.

There is a craving for change and upheaval. Evidently, the emphatic win over Italy enhanced a strong public appetite for Randall — or Sale’s Raffi Quirke — to be paired with Smith, to ignite a new era of high-octane attacking play. 

But World Cup-winning former England captain and scrum-half Matt Dawson believes that Eddie Jones will revert to his first-choice No 9.

‘I think Eddie will start Ben Youngs, with Harry on the bench,’ said the BBC Radio 5 Live pundit. 

The World Cup-winning England captain claimed 'no-one else manages the game' like Youngs

The World Cup-winning England captain claimed ‘no-one else manages the game’ like Youngs

‘It was a decent performance by Harry in Rome. He was very accurate and brought a lot of energy and threat, but I think Eddie will go back to that Ben Youngs-Danny Care model, by bringing Harry on with 20 minutes to go, to really ramp it up, when the gaps are around. He will be conscious that no one else manages the game like Ben does.

‘Are you really going to have Youngs as a replacement going into a World Cup? Where is the value in putting him on the bench? 

‘Is he going to change the way the game is played in the last 20 minutes? There are probably other scrum-halves who can do that.

‘In a high-intensity, pressure situation, Eddie has always gone to Ben. Sometimes he’s asked Ben to deliver something different and maybe he looks at that Scotland game and thinks it is time to move on and let someone else grab hold of the reins. 

Dawson believes Eddie Jones 'always turns to Ben' in a high-intensity, pressure situation

Dawson believes Eddie Jones ‘always turns to Ben’ in a high-intensity, pressure situation

‘Eddie is not scared to make big changes. But I just think there are another couple of big games for Harry to play from the bench first.’

Dawson emphasised the vital experience factor in an encounter with Wales, with Youngs the ideal figure to provide know-how to the rookies around him — fly-half Smith and Alex Dombrandt, who is likely to continue at No 8. He expects Youngs to respond to doubts about his pre-eminence, as he has done so often before.

‘We all need a gentle prod now and again,’ he said. ‘Ben would have seen the plaudits for the new guard after the Italy game and thought, “OK, I’ll show them what I can do”. 

‘It will be a great stage for him — with breaking the caps record. He knows what he is doing, let him rule the roost. 

Dawson said Youngs is ideal to guide the rookies around him such as Marcus Smith (left)

Dawson said Youngs is ideal to guide the rookies around him such as Marcus Smith (left)

Alex Dombrandt (right) is expected to keep his place at No 8 at Twickenham on Saturday

Alex Dombrandt (right) is expected to keep his place at No 8 at Twickenham on Saturday

‘To be the best for so long is remarkable. Those who are negative about Ben don’t understand all the things he does that other players can’t. 

‘It’s not all about making breaks and scoring tries, being the cheeky chappie speaking to the ref and winding people up — all the stuff that is so obvious to see. 

‘Not everyone is Antoine Dupont. Ninety-nine per cent of international scrum-halves go from ruck to ruck; passing, kicking and linking. That is the role these days. 

‘Look at Aaron Smith: he is a great scrum-half, but does he do any more than Ben Youngs? Faf de Klerk: does he do a lot more than Ben Youngs? I’m not convinced.’

The clash with Wales at Twickenham will bring a 115th appearance for his country for Youngs

The clash with Wales at Twickenham will bring a 115th appearance for his country for Youngs

Another former Test captain and scrum-half gave a Welsh perspective. Speaking from Toronto, Rob Howley said: ‘Whenever Ben Youngs has played against Wales, because England have dominated the tackle area and gainline, his running game has hurt us.

‘Randall has also done that continuously for Bristol, so the big question is whether Eddie decides to stick or twist. 

‘Does he stick with the partnership from Rome and give Randall a chance to start at home, as part of this “new England” that he has talked about? 

Former Test captain Rob Howley said Youngs has 'hurt' Wales in the past with his running game

Former Test captain Rob Howley said Youngs has ‘hurt’ Wales in the past with his running game

‘But England-Wales games are very different from an Italy game. I imagine Eddie’s team changes will reflect that pressure. I can see him reverting to Ben Youngs for that stability and experience.

‘It comes down to what Eddie believes will put Wales under most pressure. Is it that tempo from the start or the territory game to put Wales on the back foot and make them go back to contact through a kicking game from Youngs in particular? 

‘I’m not saying Randall doesn’t have a kicking game too, but there’s trust in Ben Youngs to dictate the landscape of the game England want to play.’

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