Thursday, November 8, 2012
Norfolk’s Tom Youngs will start England’s Twickenham Test match against Fiji on Saturday – to see him follow in the footsteps of brother Ben and father Nick.
And former England captain Lewis Moody has backed Youngs’ form as good enough to step up as hooker in Stuart Lancaster’s first XI of the autumn.
With Dylan Hartley sidelined with a knee injury, the Leicester Tigers star will get his first taste of Test action in an England number two shirt at the weekend, having travelled to South Africa with the squad in June and playing just midweek games.
However it wasn’t that long ago that he had dreams of playing behind brother Ben at scrum-half, only making the switch to the front row from the centres on the advice of then Tigers coach Heyneke Meyer.
Despite not looking back since, the change of position has meant that critics are quick to downplay some of the 25-year-old’s attributes at hooker, mainly his control at the lineout.
But former Tiger, Moody, believes Stuart Lancaster is right to hand former the Gresham’s pupil and Holt youngster the jersey ahead of London Irish’s David Paice, adamant his positives certainly outweigh the negatives.
“I am excited for Tom,” said Moody, speaking at the launch of this season’s LV= Cup. “He is a prolific player and an exciting young talent and in terms of his ability around the park for a hooker it is incredible – second to none almost.
“He sometimes gets a lot of stick for line out throwing but a line out is a very complicated process and it is not just about the thrower but lifters, jumpers, the timing of it all and if one of those is out it always looks like the hooker has done it wrong.
“So I think he has taken a bit of stick sometimes unnecessarily but we should throw him in there definitely to prove people wrong.
“He has a great attitude and a great work ethic and (given the opportunity) he will take it with both hands I am sure.”
Youngs bursting on the scene couldn’t be better timed. Lancaster’s options at hooker have been thin on the ground with Rob Webber injury prone and Lee Mears and Steve Thompson calling it a day, and Moody believes just being on the scene means England will be better for Youngs’ input.
“We have had some retirements in the hooker position recently with Lee Mears retiring and Rob Webber picking up an injury, so we really only have had Dylan Hartley as a young upcoming hooker,” he added.
“He needs to be pushed if he is to continue his progression and stay at the top of his game and that is what Tom will do and it is an important job.
“Just by being there it makes Dylan have to work harder and therefore a better player and it will be an interesting battle.”
Ben Youngs will have to wait for his chance on Saturday, with Danny Care getting the nod ahead of him at scrum-half for Fiji’s visit.
• The LV= Cup kicks off on Friday, 9 November. Watch the next generation break through. For tickets and info, visit www.lv.com/rugby