From Back To Scrum: The Alteration Of Tom Youngs

10 11 2012

England kick-off of their autumn internationals this Saturday with a modest test against Fiji. The bruising encounter against the Flying Fijians will prove an initial examination for Stuart Lancaster to discover just how prepared his inexperienced side are before the triple-header against the world’s top three. These tests will not be encountered flippantly. World rankings in other sports might be farcical and maligned, but for England it is pivotal to ensure they remain in the top four before the 2015 World Cup seedings are formulated come the end of this year. This is to ensure their passage through the group stage is as feasible as possible, and avoiding the powerhouses such as New Zealand prematurely. England need to showcase to the fans that they have learnt from their mistakes from the Six Nations and South Africa. When Lancaster announced his team on Thursday morning, the name on the team sheet for the Fijian game which has caused most intrigue is that of Youngs. Not Ben, however, who has returned from injury quicker than expected; but his older brother Tom.

The boys grew up on a farm in Norfolk and were always destined to play rugby. Their father Nick played scrum-half and represented the Red Roses on six occasions. Ben Youngs told fond anecdotes at the team’s hotel in Surrey on Thursday how the two brothers would play ‘attack vs. defence’ out in the fields. Tom’s younger brother happily admitted he did not have the farming endeavour of his sibling, and how this grit and fortitude drove him to make it as a professional. Tom recollects how his first game at hooker went “I remember playing my first 90 minutes for Nottingham and just running around like a headless chicken. I wanted to become the best hooker in the Championship, and making sure I set little goals has been important in my career.”

Remarkably, his career has not followed the archetypal rugby path because Youngs converted from playing as a centre to the front-row. After the suggestion from former Leicester Tigers Coach Heyneke Meyer’s that both he and the club would have faith in him if he made the move, Youngs was given a few weeks to deliberate the decision “My dad said: ‘It’s your career, your life. Go ahead and do it if you want to give it a shot.” A move to Nottingham on dual registration allowed him the freedom to learn the arts in the lower division. “It was a matter of setting small targets and taking small steps. I had my head shoved up my arse on more than one occasion, but I was always able to go back to Leicester and talk things through with the top players there.” He also ensured his coaches reviewed tapes of his games and were analytical on his performance; keen to seek out where he was making mistakes. Was there much hesitation in his decision to alter position? “I was a hard-running centre who enjoyed tackling and knew how to pick a decent line, but I couldn’t kick. I didn’t have the skills to really make the grade in midfield. I’m glad I made the switch, although I wouldn’t say it’s been easy.” His first outing as a number two was actually against his parent club in a friendly; an occasion he is not likely to forget in a hurry “The Leicester front row that day was Marcos Ayerza, George Chuter and Martin Castrogiovanni, all of them internationals. I was on painkillers for a week.”

Brothers In Arms – Ben and Tom Youngs.

This transition to the forwards only occurred in the 2008/09 season, but he expressed his desire to start his career again and found it appealing because it would make him a better person and he adores the physicality involved in the pack. Injury to regular hooker Dylan Hartley has paved the way for Youngs to make his debut at a 82,000 sell-out at Twickenham this weekend, in a starting XV which averages 14 International appearances per man. Critics point out Youngs is weak with his throwing, but with Tiger’s team-mate Geoff Parling calling in the line-out, hopefully this familiarity will calm any nerves. The 25-year-old however does not read too much into the criticism “I’m not too far off being a world-class hooker if you look at the percentages.”

Already part of the summer tour to South Africa, Youngs has shown enough to warrant the trust of Lancaster. During that trip he also encountered former Coach Meyers, whom he shared a handshake and a quick word with. He has shown the desire to succeed at the top, and this feeling is palpable in his company. He has had to cope with the adversities of a broken leg to dropping down a division to change his career path and now Tom Youngs has the opportunity to conquer another goal; playing for England.

Tom Youngs Gets His Opportunity Thanks To Dylan Harley’s Injury.

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