World Cup star Dawson’s fears for Youngs

Norfolk's Leicester Tigers scrum-half Ben Youngs faces a major World Cup battle to remain England's first choice number nine – according to 2003 winner Matt Dawson.

Youngs underwent keyhole surgery recently to trim the cartilage in his left knee, but is expected to be fit for the global spectacular Down Under that starts in September.

However, Dawson believes the late-season form of Harlequins rival Danny Care poses a much greater threat to Youngs' prospects, having given England chief Martin Johnson a selection dilemma.

'After what I saw from Danny at the back end of last season Martin could be in for a tough decision further down the line,' said Dawson, who was scrum-half when Clive Woodward's squad lifted the William Webb Ellis trophy.

'Danny can consider himself a bit unlucky not to have played more for England recently. I would like to see him get a game in the warm-up matches because his play merits it and that way Johnno can see where he stands in the pecking order.

'Ben just seemed to tail off a bit as the season came to a close and he looked a little tired. I would put Danny in there not just to see where he is but also to give Ben the rest he needs.'

Youngs is expected to be available for England's scheduled warm-up game against Wales in Cardiff on August 13 before the touring party head to New Zealand.

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England have been drawn in Pool B alongside Argentina, Scotland and Georgia – but the North Norfolk-bred half-back's immediate priority is making the cut when Johnson finalises his 30-man squad.

'I supposed the best way to look at it is there is a golden egg above your head and you are trying to jump up and reach it.

'We're all trying to get on that plane but there is a lot of hard work to be done yet,' the 21-year-old told The Rugby Paper. 'There is a huge amount of talented guys here so it's an exciting period but it also brings the best out of you.

'The coaches have put us through our paces and the training is high intensity because the World Cup is such a huge event.

'You just don't know – it could come down to making a tackle in the last minute of a game or a last minute drop goal like Jonny (Wilkinson) has shown in the past. If you're not physically in shape then you will just shoot yourself in the foot but hopefully it is all for a good cause.'

Youngs has vivid memories of England's 2003 success secured by Wilkinson's last-gasp drop goal against hosts Australia.

'I think I was about 13 at the time. I was just at home watching the television with a friend.

'I had an attention span of about five minutes but I managed for probably the first time to watch a whole game of rugby and it was a great day for English rugby and just an amazing achievement. Full credit to everyone involved. I remember watching it and feeling proud.'