‘I need to be here for moments like this,’ says Ben Youngs, with a chuckle, as his daughter jumps in front of the laptop camera to get his attention.
It is Saturday evening and Youngs has agreed to a last-minute interview, after hearing that word has reached The Mail on Sunday about his decision not to take part in this summer’s Lions tour.
He was tipped to be one of three scrum halves in Warren Gatland’s 36-man squad but, after talking through the decision with his family, has decided to stay at home.
Ben Youngs has chosen not to make himself eligible for what would have been his second tour
‘I just want to make sure there aren’t any grey areas when the story comes out,’ he explains.
Youngs toured with the Lions in 2013 but withdrew from the 2017 series because of a family illness.
‘Whether or not I would have made the final cut, I’ll never know. I just want to make sure nothing is left open to interpretation.
‘After taking the decision not to go four years ago, my perspective is probably a bit different to a lot of the guys. I’ve got two young children and my wife is heavily pregnant with the third.
‘This summer I’ve got an opportunity to be with my family and my kids. It’s been a busy couple of years, so I can also use the time to rest my body.
‘I have always loved the Lions, ever since I watched them growing up. In 2017, I watched the games at home with my family, early in the morning, with a pint. I’ll be doing no different this time. Hopefully the pubs will be open and I’ll have a beer in my hand.
‘I’ll be cheering them on and I wish everyone involved a healthy and successful tour. It’s not a decision that I’ve taken lightly, but it’s the best decision for my family.’
Youngs received a save-the-date letter two weeks ago. It outlined the summer itinerary, which involves seven weeks in South Africa in a Covid-secure bubble.
‘I received an email the other week but I had already decided by that point,’ he adds. ‘The email had a short questionnaire of whether you would be available and if you would be available at a later date. My mind was already made up.
Youngs withdrew from the 2017 tour after the wife of his brother Tom (left) learned that she was terminally ill, before she beat cancer against all odds
‘My perspective is probably different to many others after 2017. To go on a tour like that, in a bubble, you can’t just dip your toe in. You’ve got to be fully engrossed.’
Youngs’ Leicester Tigers coach Steve Borthwick declined the opportunity to be part of the Lions coaching team last month.
The 110-cap England scrum-half has followed a similar path, choosing to focus his rugby attentions on club and country.
‘It’s been a busy couple of seasons, hasn’t it?’ adds Youngs.
‘Leicester is where I’ve always been and it’s important that I’m always at my best for the club. My main goal is always to play as well as I can for my club. Off the back of that, hopefully it puts you in a position to play for England.
‘I wanted to be at home with my family but I also wanted to look after my body, so I can hit the ground running.’
Ben Youngs is still an integral member of the team for both Leicester Tigers and England
Now Youngs has cleared that up he can look forward to a long summer when lockdown restrictions ease.
‘I’m looking forward to weddings that have been postponed several times over! I’m looking forward to seeing friends and family who I haven’t seen through the lockdown. I’m just looking forward to having a good summer, being a dad and a husband.’
Leicester coach Steve Borthwick has been credited with the half-time masterstroke which saw Leicester beat Ulster 33-24 and book their place in the Challenge Cup final.
Leicester were staring down the barrel of a heavy defeat when Ulster powered into an 11-point half-time lead in their semi-final at Welford Road on Friday.
Steve Borthwick’s brave substitutions paid off as Leicester came from behind to beat Ulster
Borthwick knew something had to change, so boldly withdrew Tom Youngs, Dan Cole and George Martin at the break and saw his team amass 20 unanswered points to run out winners.
‘The first half we were very poor,’ said former England lock Borthwick. ‘We were completely outplayed. We needed to change things tactically.
‘There wasn’t much to go on but just enough to suggest this would be a better picture for us to follow. The boys did it magnificently. We’ve got to learn from what we can do better so we don’t repeat those mistakes.’