After 12 years of playing in the Guinness Six Nations, Ben Youngs is set to win his 115th England cap against Wales this weekend, breaking the record for England men’s appearances set by Jason Leonard.
He has faced off competition from Danny Care to Harry Randall and has won four Championships and one Grand Slam during his Test career.
As he prepares for a landmark moment against Wales at Twickenham on Saturday, what better time than now to take a look at some of his greatest moments playing in the Guinness Six Nations.
Away in Edinburgh, Youngs made his England debut in 2010 in tricky circumstances, coming off the bench for Ugo Monye after the winger suffered a head injury.
Not many people predicted that he would go on to become England men’s most capped player then, especially after he was nearly shown a yellow card for handling on the floor ten minutes after coming on.
But the 20-year-old soon found his feet and did well enough in 25 minutes out of position to earn a spot on the bench a week later in the 12-10 loss to Grand Slam winners France.
England finished third in that year’s Championship, but it was the first step in an incredible international career for Youngs.
Having made his debut just 12 months before, Youngs helped England take a huge step towards claiming their first Championship since 2003.
Youngs had grabbed the starting No.9 jersey on the previous summer’s tour of Australia, and started every game of the 2011 Six Nations.
He was a standout player in the 17-9 win against defending champions and eventual runners-up France.
The win proved to be crucial, with England falling to Ireland 24-8 in Round 5, but still going on to take the title.
Youngs established himself as a key player for England throughout the Championship, playing every contributing in attack and defence.
Super Saturday in 2015 will go down as one of the most dramatic days in the Championship’s long history, and Ben Youngs played his part in it.
The scrum-half had enjoyed a fine campaign, including a try in the win over Italy in Round 2, and when it came to the final day, he and
England watched on as first Wales and then Ireland set them a daunting challenge to win the title.
A thumping win for Joe Schmidt’s side in Scotland meant that England needed to beat France by 26 points to take the title.
Youngs then produced arguably his greatest performance in an England jersey. He got the ball rolling with a try after just 92 seconds before another break set up Anthony Watson for a try as France looked to have taken control.
His second try five minutes before half-time helped England into a 27-15 half-time lead before another searing break put George Ford in for the home side’s fourth.
In the end, England won 55-25 and fell one try short of the title, but no one did more than Youngs to help them get over the line.
Youngs started the 2016 Championship on the England bench.
But after his Player of the Match performance against Italy, it became increasingly clear that he was new coach Eddie Jones’ long-term first choice.
He was crucial as England set an explosive tempo in Rome on their way to a 40-9 win, a victory that put them on the path to their 13th Grand Slam and first since 2003.
Youngs and Danny Care battled it out for the scrum-half jersey during that campaign, with the Leicester Tigers legend starting against Italy, Ireland and Wales.
The game against Jacques Brunel’s Italy side may have been his standout performance, but 2016 as a whole was a year to remember for Youngs and England.
England became the first team to win the title despite losing their first game since Wales in 2013, primarily thanks to Youngs’ impact against Italy and Wales.
Against Italy, he became the second England men’s player ever to earn 100 caps, scored two tries and was named Player of the Match.
Then against Wales, the scrum-half was crucial, again being named Player of the Match as 14-man England came out on top in a 33-30 win at Twickenham.
His box kicking was vital, and his speed at the base of the ruck was electric in a game that completed the Triple Crown for England.
Youngs matched Leonard’s record of 114 caps in Round 2 of the 2022 Guinness Six Nations, coming off the bench to replace young star Harry Randall in the 33-0 win against Italy.
With the result already secure by the time he entered the fray, this performance might not rank alongside some of those already listed, but it was perhaps his most significant as he cemented his place as a legend of the game.
It has been a tough start to England’s 2022 campaign, but with Wales coming up and Youngs in good form, England will hope to match the efforts of 2020 in rebounding from an opening loss to win the Championship.
Whether they do or not, Youngs can hold his head up high after 12 years of playing at the highest level.
And this isn’t the end, Youngs still has plenty of time to add to his astounding number of caps.