Ben Youngs hails 'phenomenal' brother Tom after wife goes into remission following four-year cancer battle
Ben Youngs has paid tribute to his “phenomenal” brother Tom days after it was confirmed that his sister-in-law, Tom’s wife Tiffany, has gone into remission following a four-year battle with cancer.
Just 12 months ago, doctors told Tiffany that the condition she had been fighting for three years had become terminal, a prognosis that prompted scrum-half Ben to withdraw from the British and Irish Lions tour to New Zealand in order to be with his elder sibling’s family.
However, alternative therapies have aided a heart-warming recovery that has been celebrated throughout the rugby community and beyond. Speaking for the first time since the news was announced by Leicester Tigers last Tuesday, Ben described how Tom informed their club colleagues.
“It’s been incredible,” said the 28 year-old. “When we found out the news, it was mind-blowing. It really knocks you back. It probably didn’t sink in for a couple of weeks.
“Then when my brother announced it to the Leicester boys everyone was blown away. It was just a message to the [WhatsApp] group, he couldn’t contain himself. It’s been one hell of a journey but to get to where we are now has been remarkable.
“Tom and Tiff said this in their statement but I’ll reinforce it – the support of everyone in the rugby community towards our family over the last year and previous to that has been overwhelming.”
Although Leicester endured a disappointing season, failing to qualify for the Premiership play-offs for the first time since 2004, Ben suggested that the way club captain Tom had retained his dignity and poise throughout such a difficult period in his personal life would never be forgotten at Welford Road.
“We all have things going on outside the game that come in different shapes and sizes,” added Ben. “But to deal with what he has in the public eye, and then tackle rugby training, games, the scrutiny that comes with being captain at a club like Leicester… he’s phenomenal. I don’t know how he balanced it all.
“He has the utmost respect from all the boys and he will probably go down as one of the [Tigers] greats because of how he’s conducted himself during this period, how he has dealt with rugby commitments and outside life. He’s been phenomenal.”
Ben Youngs is back in Eddie Jones’s squad preparing for next Sunday’s Quilter Cup fixture against Barbarians and the subsequent three-Test tour of South Africa. He missed all but 10 minutes of England’s Six Nations campaign after rupturing the medial collateral ligament in his left knee during the early stages of 46-15 win at the Stadio Olimpico on Feb 4.
Youngs admitted that injury, which occurred as team-mate Dylan Hartley and Italy prop Simone Ferrari fell on to his trapped leg, caused panic at the prospect of a more severe setback such as an anterior cruciate ligament tear.
“I felt my knee pop in and pop out,” he explained. “That was obviously painful, which is why I yelped… but then some of that yelp is the fear of ‘that’s my knee, what have I done?’”
After the “embarrassing” experience of being wheeled off in a golf buggy, Youngs made an important phone call.
“My boy Boris, who’s three and a half, had been watching on telly with my wife Charlotte and he was a bit upset because he couldn’t work out what had happened. I had to speak to him and tell him I was all right,” said Youngs.
“Charlotte said she had wanted to change the channel but he wanted to know [about the injury] as well. He was distraught, so I settled him down and once that was done it was about waiting to fly back, get a scan and see a specialist.
“I’m extremely blessed. Rugby injuries happen but we have brilliant people in place to pick up the pieces and get you fit. In the grand scheme of things, what looked like a long-term injury wasn’t too bad.
“The ligaments stayed pretty strong, so I had five weeks – day and night – in a brace, which was a bit irritating after a while, but I was into rehab after that. I had so much expertise around me and was able to get back fit.”
Youngs returned for the final three matches of Leicester’s season. While Tigers were already out of the play-off race before the final round of fixtures, his exceptional performance in a 35-13 victory against Sale Sharks demonstrated the dynamism that England missed over the Six Nations.
As one of only seven players in Jones’s squad to have travelled to South Africa under Stuart Lancaster in 2012, 74-cap Youngs is likely to be an influential figure. Just as he has been there for his brother Tom, so the elder sibling has repaid the support – albeit sometimes in a different way.
“When I’d had all the scans on my knee, my first day back at Leicester was a Wednesday,” he finished. “I walked into the changing rooms on my crutches and about five lads – my brother was one of those guys – hit the floor, screaming, holding their knees and rolling around.
“They’d heard the news that luckily I didn’t need the op and it wasn’t as severe as it could have been. There’s no place like a rugby club.”