The Test centurion talks close mates and fake snakes

Downtime with… Leicester and England scrum-half Ben Youngs

What’s the funniest thing you’ve heard on the pitch? 

I’m not sure I can tell the story but all I will say is that it involved Matt Smith and Stephen Jones! There was quite a bit more talk on the field when I started playing because they didn’t have ref mics back then.

Got any nicknames? 

Lenny. I wish I had a story for it but I’m the youngest of 28 first cousins and we all have the same sort of nickname – Benny became Lenny and it stuck. Everyone calls me that now.

Who are the jokers in the Leicester squad? 

Everyone knows how to have a laugh but the two scheming something all the time are definitely (Ellis) Gengey and Nemani (Nadolo). They’re always in good spirits and fun to be around.

With England, there’s been a few. Hask (James Haskell) was always very amusing, and Joe Marler. And there are always simple pranks. On tour in South Africa or Australia, a rubber snake will be put in someone’s bag. It’s simple but highly effective for team morale.

Do you have any phobias? 

None that really keep me up at night. But I’m not sure I would want to have a snake land on me or a shark pop up next to me in the ocean.

What really annoys you? 

Playing golf against George Ford, because he’s annoyingly good!

Do you have any superstitions? 

None! Once you have one, you will never stop adding them…

Your most embarrassing moment? 

When Tom Croft was halfway through his best man speech at my wedding… I am not saying anymore.

Who would you like to be stuck in a lift with? 

Tom Hanks, he seems like such a good bloke. I have so many questions for him. Who was his favourite character to play? Which character fascinated him most? If he could have had the lead role in any other movie, what would it be?

If you could be one team-mate, who would it be? 

Nemani, to see how fun it would be to be that big!

What’s the silliest thing you’ve ever bought?

Buying into a coffee business with Tom Croft. It’s at the stadium, Welford Road, but with Covid and no crowds it’s fizzled out. At some point Crofty will probably have another ‘eureka moment’.

What’s your guilty pleasure? 

Chocolate. What bar depends what mood I’m in. If I’m filling the car up at a petrol station and you’re telling me I have to choose one, I’d go Snickers.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be? 

Reading people’s minds. Whose would I read first? Maybe my dog’s. I’ve got a 14-week-old pup and he’s doing nothing we ask as we try to train him, so that would be interesting.

So my dog to start with, then everyone else – my wife, kids… I’d soon find out if people liked me or not. I’m not sure I’d want to know what the coaches think!

If your house was on fire, what would you save (people and pets are safe)? 

My wedding photos… can you send this interview to my wife?

What would be your Mastermind specialist subject? 

Movies. I do really enjoy films but I’d struggle to say which one was my favourite. Thrillers and crime films are the type I like.

Who would be your three dream dinner party guests? 

Tom Croft and me. We don’t need anyone else.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? 

The only people’s opinions that matter are from those dearest to you. Except Tom Croft.

Tom’s getting a fair bit of stick here… 

Crofty and I lived together for a few years and we’re great friends. He’d be doing the same to me if he could but he’s retired – his body’s given up and he’s old – so he can’t get his own back.

Got any surprising hidden talents?

I’ve never lost a game of Cluedo. I will challenge anybody.

What would you like to achieve outside of rugby? 

To take my Cluedo skills into the real world and become a detective.

How’d you like to be remembered? 

As somebody my team-mates wanted to play with.

This article originally appeared in the December 2020 edition 0f Rugby World magazine.

Follow Rugby World on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.