- Tom Youngs on his continued evolution as a hooker
- England debut with brother and Dan Cole would be so special for Leicester man
The story goes that England coaches Graham Rowntree and Simon Hardy feel the need to tell Tom Youngs to go easy in training for the sake of his teammates and although the man himself says the claims are exaggerated, the hooker admits he can be a bit “full on” at times.
An abrasive edge is prerequisite for the front row and something that comes naturally for a man of Norfolk farming stock, who has made a remarkable transition from a Premiership and England Under 20 centre to the fulcrum of the front row.
Youngs cuts a modest and relaxed figure off the field and admits he was still learning the hooker role when he toured South Africa with England last summer, starting the 57-31 victory over Northern Barbarians in Potchefstroom.
But after injuries to Dylan Hartley and Rob Webber, Youngs could be handed the No.2 shirt for the QBE Internationals and while he admits his rapid rise is hard to take in at times, the impression is that the 25-year-old’s attitude is simply to hit the next ruck or throw the next ball.
“It does come really quick at times and you don’t get time to step back from it,” he said.
“Things soon escalate, the rollercoaster gets going, guys get injured and suddenly you’re there. I’m here now and really enjoying it. I’m loving the facilities [at the FA’s St George’s Park] and enjoying training, so it can’t get much better.
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“When I was in South Africa it was about learning the hooker role and practising the throwing but my ultimate goal was to get back to Leicester and start that preseason running and try and be the number one hooker.
“I’m not going to say I’ve got the shirt but it’s been nice that I’ve been starting the games.”
Youngs has achieved his early season objective, having started all of Leicester’s games in the Aviva Premiership (7) and Heineken Cup (2) this season. But the older brother of England and Leicester scrum half Ben Youngs is adamant he has further improvements to make, saying the day you stop trying to improve is the day you stagnate and regress as a player.
“The day you think you’re the perfect player is the day you’ll go downhill,” said Youngs, whose Leicester side won 13 of 14 line outs in the 39-22 Heineken Cup victory over Ospreys on October 21. “Everything can be improved on – the core skills, even the ball carrying, the contact area, the tackle area.
“You’re always looking at ways to improve your game and the coaches are here help you with that.”
Although Youngs is not yet letting himself consider a potential Test debut during this autumn’s QBE Internationals, he concedes it would be an extra special moment given the family, friendship and heritage ties he has with the England squad.
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Tom and Ben’s father Nick Youngs was a Leicester and England No.9 in the 1980s. Meanwhile, England tighthead Dan Cole, a colleague through the England and Leicester age-groups and one of Tom’s closest friends in the game, is a likely right-hand-man in the scrum.
Youngs added: “If you look at training Coley and I are always standing next to each other having chat and we get on very well. He’s a world-class tighthead too so he’s a good guy to play with.
“He works very hard, he’s an honest guy, he’ll give you 110 per cent every minute of every game and that’s the kind of person you want to play with. That’s what this squad of players has got at the moment, a lot of people who just want to go out and work hard for each other.
“Playing at Twickenham with Ben would be a massively proud moment but it will be something we won’t appreciate until we finish the game. To play with my brother at Twickenham is something we always dreamed of, but whether it’s going to happen, we don’t know.”
Nick Youngs was England’s scrum half when New Zealand were defeated 15-9 at Twickenham in 1983 and should the current Youngs brothers be selected for the autumn finale on December 1 against the All Blacks, you can be certain they’ll be going “full on” to emulate their father.