Tom Youngs to stake claim for Lions start in showdown

Leicester hooker faces rival Hartley in Aviva Premiership decider

Once upon a Lions tour two hookers, Barry Williams and Mark Regan, famously came to blows on the training field. No one died; frankly, it was a relief to every onlooker to know the two men were living up to one of the game's most combustible positions.

This year Tom Youngs of Leicester and Northampton's Dylan Hartley are two of the three Lions contesting the No 2 jersey. They managed to keep things civil at last Monday's kitting-out session – well, a full-on scrap among the suits and the shiny shoes would have been silly – but next Saturday, even before they board the plane for Australia, they have the little matter of their clubs meeting in the final to decide the Aviva Premiership.

"I think it's like any position, when you're fighting for it," Youngs said, pondering over the right words. "You get on but you're still in competition.

"It's easier when you have a rival at a club. When it's international level, or higher with the Lions, it's that bit more difficult. You say hello, you have your chat at dinner about a game… you do everything to help the team, but that's about it.

"Dylan and I get on all right together. But you know on the training field you're going to want to get ahead of each other. And at Twickenham next week we will be smashing into each other, wanting to do what we can do to help our side win the Premiership."

The pair have had the same rivalry with England all season and Youngs, in making a stunning breakthrough after his well-documented switch from centre to hooker four years ago, has had the best of it, starting eight of his country's nine Tests, while Hartley was out of action with a knee injury in the autumn, before sitting on the bench behind his less experienced rival for most of the Six Nations.

There was just time enough in the few hours they and the third Lions hooker – Wales's Richard Hibbard – spent with their fellow tourists at the Lions' London hotel for the head coach, Warren Gatland, to make a speech about casting off their national ties and uniting for the red jersey. Then Youngs and Hartley returned to pumping themselves up for the infinitely more parochial battle of the East Midlands, set for six days' time at Twickenham in the first Premiership final meeting between the clubs, who are 37 miles apart but at either end of the championship-winning scale: Leicester have nine titles to Northampton's none, and have appeared in the past eight finals, winning three.

In fact the sides first met in 1880 when Leicester were just a few weeks old – but Youngs, as in so many respects of his whirlwind rise, is a relative novice. A few minutes here and there in four appearances as a substitute hooker against Northampton to go with a start as centre in what feels like the mists of time in December 2006, before Leicester's South African former head coach Heyneke Meyer suggested his switch of position.

Youngs's first front-row start versus the Saints was in March this year, but he was off before half-time after banging his head on someone's knee and cannot remember much about it. (Not Hartley's knee, in case you were wondering).

"I think Dylan and Hibbard are strong in the tight and pretty good around the field too, though I am a bit quicker," said Youngs. "The hard grounds in Australia might suit me. I guess Warren has picked players to give him a certain balance. All I am thinking about is this final. Your club is who you come back to, you feel like you owe the club the win."

In turn the club coach, Richard Cockerill, has been rewarded for his decision to see the Youngs experiment through, leaving him on the field early in the season at Gloucester when The Shed were braying and Youngs's throw was faltering.

"I'm a bit envious, in a nice way," said Cockerill. "I got capped at 27, having been a hooker since I was a kid, and I had to work my nuts off for that. Tom should take massive credit. He has worked so hard."

For the record, when Williams and Regan had finished fighting in 1997, Keith Wood got the Test spot. And anyway, when it comes to rivalry, how about the Youngs family try-tally challenge? Every Monday, cousin Jake posts an update on Facebook – participants are Tom and his brother Ben (who is topping the table), plus two more fellow Tigers and Lions squad members Tom Croft and Dan Cole, who are going out with two of their female cousins.

Then there are the playing cousins at the Youngs's old club, Holt in Norfolk: Jake, a hooker, his brother Bruce, a scrum-half, and Joe and Freddie in the seconds. And Edward, who plays for West Norfolk, and Monty, who's somewhere Tom cannot remember. "I am actually on minus one, because I got a try disallowed against Scotland, so that's not too clever," said Tom. "Coley's on zero but he's still beating me."

With that kind of incentive, Hartley may not stand a chance.

BUY RUGBY WORLD CUP TICKETS

Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
tv
Sport
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Voices
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
music
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Sport
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
art
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine