BEN Youngs suffered one of the toughest days of his young career in Dublin two years ago, when England’s Grand Slam bid was demolished by Ireland.
The Leicester scrum-half will not be seeking direct revenge when England return to the Aviva Stadium next Sunday for a crunch RBS 6 Nations encounter.
But it is the perfect stage upon which to prove he has lived up to his word and emerged from the bitter experience a better player.
Youngs was sin-binned for petulantly throwing the ball away as Ireland swept aside Martin Johnson’s England 24-8, ruining their hopes of a first clean sweep since 2003.
Afterwards, Youngs said: “I’ve played like an idiot but I have to man up and take it on the chin. This is a good test of character. Let’s see what I am made of.”
Lots has changed since that day, both for Youngs and England.
“I’m a far better player now after that experience,” Youngs said after helping England open their Six Nations campaign with a 38-18 win against Scotland.
“To lose the Grand Slam is never nice. I got sin-binned and things just didn’t go my way.
“As hard as it is to deal with those moments and games, I am a strong believer that as you make mistakes you get better.
“It was a day at the office where I made a fair few mistakes. That day and getting bumped out of the World Cup (were my lowest points).
“It was a lot to handle but I certainly came out the other side a far better player.
“I’d rather have taken a Grand Slam. But saying that, you have to go through those hard times and defeats because it makes you learn very, very quickly.
“This side want to minimise that - we want to learn whilst winning.”
Italy captain Sergio Parisse, meanwhile, hailed a “fantastic beginning” to this season’s RBS 6 Nations Championship for his team after they stunned tournament favourites France in Rome yesterday. Italy’s 23-18 success at Stadio Olimpico blew the competition wide open, with France and reigning Six Nations champions Wales both beaten on the opening weekend.
“We are really happy with the victory,” try-scorer Parisse said. “We talked a lot about our ambition as a team before the tournament, but when you talk and you don’t get the result, you don’t have any credibility.
“We have won against France, a team that played very well in November. For us, it is a fantastic beginning to the Six Nations.
“We kept the ball for a lot of phases, and I am really happy because we played together so much.”