North Norfolk rugby brothers Ben and Tom Youngs are proof of why England can dream of World Cup glory
- Credit: Andy Micklethwaite
Norfolk brothers Ben and Tom Youngs are a prime example of why England will go into next year's Rugby World Cup with high hopes, according to former England forward Martin Bayfield.
Towering at 6ft 10ins tall and with 31 England caps and three British & Irish Lions Test appearances on his CV, the former Northampton Saints lock is in a good position to judge.
The 47-year-old was the guest speaker at Norwich Rugby Club's annual dinner last Thursday, bringing his tales of the game to the dinner at Drayton Old Lodge.
As one of BT Sport's main rugby presenters, Bayfield is getting to watch plenty of rugby nowadays and was full of praise for the Youngs brothers, who are originally from Aylsham.
The Leicester Tigers duo, who played youth rugby for Holt and North Walsham, have seen their rapid ascent to the peak of English rugby checked somewhat this season.
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Last season Tom, now aged 27 and with 17 England caps so far, was named Premiership Player of the Year as Leicester won the Premiership final 37-17 against Northampton at Twickenham.
During that game Tom's England rival for the No2 shirt, Dylan Hartley, was red carded for swearing at referee Wayne Barnes and subsequently banned for 11 matches.
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Tom then started two of the Tests during the triumphant Lions tour of Australia last summer, and came on as a replacement for Wales's Richard Hibbard in the final Test. Ben was used as a replacement in the first Test and started the second but didn't feature in the third.
Bayfield said of Tom's battle with Hartley: 'I think it's a very tight one and I think it's very good for England, and for the two players.
'I think the reason England have been pretty successful so far this season is that there are players pushing for all of the positions, no one is assured of their position so it is keeping everyone very honest and on their toes and they are developing well.
'I think between Dylan and Tom, maybe Dylan is the more complete player because he's been playing hooker a lot longer. Tom's throwing can sometimes let him down, but ball in hand, someone just pushing and being a nuisance, Tom Youngs is your man, he's a little cannonball rolling around the field at times.
'To have two players of that quality pushing for a position is exactly what Stuart Lancaster wants.'
Ben, with 35 England caps already at the age of 24, returned from the Lions tour looking jaded and started the Premiership season slowly, missing out on a place in the match-day squad for the whole of this year's Six Nations.
Harlequins' scrum-half Danny Care seized on Ben's absence to make the number nine shirt his own, with Northampton's Lee Dickson used as a replacement.
'I don't think he played very well at all at the start of the season, certainly by his standards,' Bayfield said of Ben. 'But if you look at how Stuart Lancaster manages his players, Danny Care wasn't playing well a few months ago and he's now absolutely on top of his game and Stuart Lancaster will be hoping that those who aren't in the squad, go away, work on improving their game and force their way back in.
'Lee Dickson has taken that place, Danny Care is the number one, but again three world class scrum-halves all pushing for recognition and there will be others coming up underneath.
'So again, for England great, for the individual probably disappointing, but for England it's great news.'