Tom Youngs to make England debut against Fiji
LONDON (AFP) –
Tom Youngs is set to complete a remarkable transformation in his rugby career after being named to make his Test debut in an inexperienced England side against Fiji at Twickenham on Saturday.
The Leicester hooker started his career at centre but was converted into a front-row forward under the guidance of then Tigers coach Heyneke Meyer, now in charge of South Africa.
Youngs, 25, is now in line to become the third member of his family to play international rugby union for England with younger brother Ben, a 24-times capped scrum-half, on the bench this weekend as back up to Danny Care.
Nick Youngs, the brothers’ father, won six caps at scrum-half from 1983-84.
England coach Stuart Lancaster gave Tom Youngs, who played twice in midweek matches during the recent tour of South Africa, his chance after an injury to Dylan Hartley that threatens to sideline the New Zealand-born hooker from the whole of England’s European autumn international campaign.
“Congratulations to Tom Youngs, who has made a great transition from centre to hooker in a short period and deserves his chance,” said Lancaster after announcing his side on Thursday.
In the backs, Ugo Monye will make his comeback on the left wing in place of the injured Ben Foden while Charlie Sharples deputises for the suspended Chris Ashton on the right wing.
There are five changes in all from the England side that drew 14-14 last time out against South Africa in Port Elizabeth in June, with flanker Chris Robshaw returning to captain the side after missing that match with a broken hand.
The uncapped pair of Saracens prop Mako Vunipola and Wasps lock Joe Launchbury are in line to make their Test debuts off the bench.
Fly-half Toby Flood is the most experienced player in the England side with 50 caps and the starting line-up boasts just 215 Test appearances in total.
Saturday’s match is the first of an autumn campaign that also sees England at home to southern hemisphere giants Australia (November 17), South Africa (November 24) and world champions New Zealand (December 1).
“This QBE International series will be a real marker of where we are as a squad,” said Lancaster.
“We are playing four back-to-back matches in four weeks against the top teams in the world and we are confident we can rise to the challenge.
“The foundations are in place, now it’s time for us to execute and deliver.”
How England fare will determine whether the 2015 World Cup hosts maintain, or indeed improve on, the fourth place they currently hold in the world rankings.
The top four teams in the standings will comprise the leading seeded teams for next month’s World Cup draw. If England are amongst them, they will avoid the likes of the champion All Blacks in the pool phase.
Alex Goode; Charlie Sharples, Manu Tuilagi, Brad Barritt, Ugo Monye; Toby Flood, Danny Care; Thomas Waldrom, Chris Robshaw (capt), Tom Johnson; Geoff Parling, Tom Palmer; Dan Cole, Tom Youngs, Joe Marler
Replacements: David Paice, David Wilson, Mako Vunipola, Joe Launchbury, Tom Wood, Ben Youngs, Owen Farrell, Mike Brown