O’Connor full of praise for Youngs

Date published: April 16 2017

Leicester Tigers head coach Matt O’Connor hailed scrum-half Ben Youngs as one of the leading performers on the world stage, and has backed him to receive a call-up for the British and Irish Lions Tour.

Youngs scored a sparkling individual try and performed a try-saving tackle as he inspired Leicester Tigers to a 30-3 win over Newcastle Falcons in their Premiership at Welford Road on Saturday.

Ellis Genge scored two tries for Leicester, with Telusa Veainu also crossing for the hosts. Freddie Burns kicked two penalties and two conversions.

But it was Youngs, on his 201st appearance for the Tigers, who stole the show with his creativity, and O’Connor, in his first game in charge of his second spell at Leicester, is delighted to have the England scrum-half in his ranks.

“Why would you not pick him? [to go on the Lions tour],” said O’Connor.

“He is as good as there is at nine in the world at the moment and the added responsibility of the captaincy worked in his favour.

“He is a world-class player and he delivers most weeks. I am happy he is playing really well for us.”

O’Connor added that he is hoping to see further growth as his side target a strong finish to the season.

Bath’s loss at Worcester Warriors means Leicester are guaranteed a top-four finish if they win their last two games against Sale Sharks and Warriors.

“I think we have 25, 30, 40 per cent growth in us, so it will be interesting to see how we go in the next two games,” added O’Connor.

“If we look after the ball, four, five, six times better, you are talking about those numbers. We are good enough to beat anyone.”

“It was tough. They were competitive and made it hard for us to get any continuity in the first half. The try on half-time and Ben Youngs’ tackle on Goneva probably set us up for the win.”

Newcastle’s only contribution to the scoreboard was an early penalty from Joel Hodgson, which levelled the scores at 3-3, before the hosts stepped through the gears and secured victory.

Falcons director of rugby Dean Richards admitted his side were not at their best, and added that any mistakes against the Welford Road outfit are not likely to go unpunished.

“The lads are disappointed in the changing room because we didn’t turn up on the day, and that’s the most frustrating part,” he said.

“You know what to expect against Leicester and, if you don’t get certain things right, as we didn’t on the day, then you’re going to struggle.

“Seventh place is still on and there are games still to be played, but we’re just looking at our own performance.

“Today we were poor, last week we were fine and we’re a little bit inconsistent. That’s the most frustrating part of it, because when we’re on song we play some good rugby.”