England scrum half Ben Youngs believes clinching the grand slam with victory over France in Paris would prove the team have learned from their premature exit from the Rugby World Cup. Eddie Jones' team head to the French capital as the Six Nations champions but can claim a record 13th grand slam for the first time since 2003 at the Stade de France.
Youngs was among the squads which missed out on grand slams in 2011 and 2012 after final weekend defeats to Ireland and Wales and was knocked out of the World Cup at the pool stage last September after losing to Australia. The Leicester Tigers half back has been part of a complete turnaround in fortunes under Jones and is on course to end the long wait for success this weekend.
The 56-time capped Youngs, who has won just one major honour in the form of the Premiership title in 2010, will be one of five players who came within touching distance of the grand slam five years ago. James Haskell, Dan Cole, Dylan Hartley and Danny Care - all of whom are likely to be involved - were all part of the loss in Dublin and Youngs is hoping the quartet have learned from such a harrowing defeat.
"I bloody hope so [we learn from past failures] I don't want to go through it again," he said, after the 25-21 win over Wales. "The Welsh team have won a number of grand slams, this lot haven't. If we could go all the way it would be fantastic and it would show we have learned lessons from previous Six Nations and probably from the World Cup.
"I've been there a few times as player and come up short. You have to approach it like another game, you can't get too hyped up about it. You might freeze and it is doubly disappointing. When you have a guy like Eddie who is so experienced, he is very good at inspiring belief within the side. We have a good bunch of guys who have been through some up and downs, hopefully that experience will count leading up to it."
While France's loss to Scotland ensured England were crowned champions with a game to spare, Youngs expects Guy Noves' side to be motivated by the opportunity to stifle the Red Rose's resurgence and prevent them claiming the grand slam.
"Sometimes we've played games against teams that are not playing for anything except trying to stop you from winning it [the grand slam]," he added. "Teams don't often need too much of the motivation playing against the English. I am sure when we get to Paris next week it will be packed out and they'll be there hoping to spoil the party.
"At the end of the day they are all competitive test matches aren't they? Teams at home they are often a different beast than they are at home. The French are probably a good symbol of that. They have some very talented players and we're fully aware it is going to be a big challenge."