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Rugby | International Rugby

Tom Youngs © Gallo Images

Unusual journey completes Youngs' family hat-trick



With two England scrumhalves in the family Tom Youngs was poised for a lifetime of ribbing when he struggled as a Leicester reserve centre but on Saturday, three years after a radical switch to hooker, he will complete the hat-trick against Fiji.

Brother Ben, two years younger at 23, will be on the bench having missed out this time to Danny Care for the No 9 shirt while father Nick, who won six caps in the early 1980s, will be the proudest man in the Twickenham stands.

Despite winning age group caps for England as a back, Youngs was persuaded to have a go at transforming himself into a hooker by former Leicester coach Heyneke Meyer in 2009.

After a torrid first few months where he worked hard to bulk up but found himself regularly slaughtered by experienced rivals, a talented front rower began to emerge.

He had a baptism of fire playing on loan for Nottingham against his former club, with a formidable all-international front row of Martin Castrogiovanni, Mefin Davies and Marcos Ayerza.

"I took painkillers for the rest of the week. I was in agony," he said this week as he prepared for his first taste of full international rugby.

"But I got better and better and got used to it."

On his return to Leicester Youngs was helped by the presence of the club's head coach and former England hooker Richard Cockerill and he secured the starting jersey.

He travelled with England to South Africa this year, featuring in the midweek games and now, in the injury absence of Dylan Hartley, Rob Webber and Joe Gray, has been given his chance despite starting only a handful of Premiership games.

"When I got asked to move (to hooker) it was little goals at a time," Youngs said after going through his paces at England's training base in Surrey on Thursday.

"It was about building at Nottingham trying to get back to Leicester but the ultimate goal was always England.

"My family are over the moon for me. They know how hard I've worked for this and it's great that my brother will hopefully get out there on the pitch with me and it will be a fantastic day for the family."

MENTAL TOUGHNESS

Coach Stuart Lancaster said he had no doubts about Youngs' ability to continue to develop.

"There are not many centres who transfer to hooker," he told reporters.

"I've known back rowers do it and props go to hooker but centre to hooker...that takes resilience and real mental toughness.

"Having come from centre his handling and defensive organisation are good as is his set piece and his toughness. The scrummaging power is phenomenal."

If there is a weakness in his game it is his lineout throwing but again Lancaster talked him up.

"People make a lot of his throwing in but he's thrown in big games now consistently," he said.

"People like Geoff Parling (who starts at lock on Saturday)say they trust him. They work together at their club, a lineout caller and the hooker they feed off each other."

Either side of Youngs on Saturday will be Joe Marler, winning his fourth cap, with Dan Cole bringing the experience.

There are two more uncapped players on the bench in prop Mako Vunipola and lock Joe Launchbury while the starting team will average only 14 caps per player.

With tougher tests against Australia, South Africa and New Zealand to come, however, Lancaster made no apologies for his fledgling group.

"We've selected a side for this game and then will move on," he said. "We know with these big four games coming up there will be changes through form, fitness and selection.

"For me it's about getting a squad with strength in depth, with some young players we can develop for the future but it's also about winning in the here and now."

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