Ben Youngs enters Test retirement comforted by the belief that England’s future is in safe hands after an encouraging World Cup.
Youngs made his 127th and last appearance in Friday’s bronze final victory over Argentina and ends his 13-year international career as the nation’s most capped men’s player.
Courtney Lawes has also confirmed he is bowing out of the Test arena and Jonny May is very likely to follow suit, while Dan Cole and Joe Marler are nearing the end of their time at the top.
The departure of so many experienced stars – three of them cap centurions – points to an uncertain future, but Youngs believes England can leave the World Cup with confidence.
“There will still be a lot of guys playing who have vast experience and who will be playing with the guys that will now start learning Test rugby,” the Leicester scrum-half said.
“We have some really good leaders, some guys who have been there and done it and dragged the others along with us, along with coaches who gave us a really clear plan.
“It was a plan that suited the team and what we needed right now, which was stripping it back a little bit.
“Marcus Smith is not inexperienced because he’s got a huge amount of experience for someone of such a young age and he’s now finding playing full-back a little bit different for him.
“You’ve got Freddie Steward, Ollie Chessum, George Martin, you’ve got a lot of guys who are going to continue to grow.
“You then marry that up with the guys like Maro Itoje, Ellis Genge and Jamie George who will still be there.
“It’s about getting that blend and continuity in the group, and also we’ve got good coaches.
“And there is that Englishness in us when our backs are against the wall. It’s a bit of bloody-mindedness – ‘right boys, we’ve got no option, we’ve got to roll our sleeves up’.”