Norfolk’s Tom Youngs earns a test start for British and Irish Lions against Australia
- Credit: PA
Norfolk brothers Ben and Tom Youngs have capped a superb club season with Leicester Tigers by being included in the British and Irish Lions squad for Saturday's opening test against Australia.
Hooker Tom has edged Welsh rival Richard Hibbard out of a starting spot, whilst Ben has been named on the replacements' bench by head coach Warren Gatland.
Gatland's starting line up to face the Wallabies in Brisbane contained only one major surprise with late English tour call up Alex Corbisiero edging out countryman Mako Vunipola at loosehead prop. The Aylsham-bred duo had to delay their trip Down Under after helping Leicester clinch the Premiership final at Twickenham. Tom was also crowned Premiership player-of-the-year after his successful conversion from the backs to the front row.
'Mako's been pretty unlucky. We've looked at the weather conditions and there's a threat of showers,' Gatland said at the official team announcement early on Thursday morning. 'I've no doubt that (Australia coach) Robbie Deans has looked at Mako technically at scrum time. Mako coming off the bench will give us a huge amount of impetus and that's a big strength of his game.
'Technically Alex is probably a little bit sounder and potentially we feel we might have a little bit of an edge at scrum time, although it will be tough contest.
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'Alex might also prove to be a better combination with Tom Youngs and Adam Jones, but there's no doubt Mako will have an impact for us coming off the bench.'
Gatland admitted the selection process had been challenging, but used the Lions' impressive 47-17 victory over the Waratahs - where Tom Youngs was prefered at hooker - as his template for the Test team by retaining 11 of that starting XV.
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'We went through due process and there was a good discussion about the team,' he said.
'Obviously the make-up of the loose forwards was one, the make-up of the front row was a big discussion and the make-up of the midfield too. A lot of the players were rewarded for their performance last Saturday against the Waratahs. That was an extremely positive performance and a lot of those selected for Saturday played against the Waratahs.
'But given the attrition rate of the series it's important the rest of the squad stay focused. We're a really close-knit group and there's a positive feeling in the team.'
• British and Irish Lions team to face Australia at Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane, on Saturday
L Halfpenny (Wales); A Cuthbert (Wales), B O'Driscoll (Ireland), J Davies (Wales), G North (Wales); J Sexton (Ireland), M Phillips (Wales); A Corbisiero (England), T Youngs (England), A Jones (Wales), A-W Jones (Wales), P O'Connell (Ireland), T Croft (England), S Warburton (Wales, capt), J Heaslip (Ireland).
• Replacements: R Hibbard (Wales), M Vunipola (England), D Cole (England), G Parling (England), D Lydiate (Wales), B Youngs (England), O Farrell (England), S Maitland (Ireland).