Wallabies can wait – it's all Tigers now for Youngs
Talk of summer tours is unwelcome bunkum to those who see club matters as paramount for the next few weeks, and that includes Leicester's newly-named British and Irish Lions squad member Tom Youngs. "Harlequins will be a fantastic game, we'll up our levels and we owe them from a couple of games where they've got the better of us," the hooker said of this weekend's play-off semi-final at Welford Road. "I want to win something with my club and that's the same for everyone. Whenever the season's done, the Lions will sink in. I've got a lot to concentrate on here and a lot to still improve on."
Youngs and his scrum-half brother Ben are among six Leicester players chosen for the Lions; Toby Flood, the fly-half, by contrast, is contemplating giving the shadow England tour to South America in June a miss. The England coach Stuart Lancaster names his squad on Wednesday and is pondering allowing the likes of Flood and Harlequins' Chris Robshaw to hit the beach in favour of some younger candidates, partly because the two tour Tests are against an under-strength Argentina. "There's both options, to take a full side or to give a few guys a break and let them rest and recover," said the 27-year-old, 57-cap Flood. "To me, there's pros and cons, it's 50-50. It would be fantastic to go but I haven't had a full pre-season since the age of 19. I was very non-committal, discussing it with Stuart last week. He'll make the ultimate decision."
Flood scored a jinking try – Leicester's fifth, in the 67th minute – but clearly believes himself to be a long way off a Lions call-up. As for Youngs, he described Saturday's five-tries-to-three win over ninth-placed London Irish as "blowing away the cobwebs" after Leicester had no fixture the previous weekend.
The Tigers are seeking their ninth successive final and though their record against Harlequins in the last two seasons is poor, with four losses in five Premiership meetings, including Twickenham last May when the London club won the title for the first time, there is devil in the detail. Take Quins' 22-9 Premiership win at Welford Road last September for instance: the Tigers started with seven of the eight forwards who lined up against London Irish on Saturday but they were missing serious strike-runner threats in the absent Manu Tuilagi, Tom Croft, Ben Youngs and Geordan Murphy. Similarly, when Quins won at Welford Road in October 2011 it was while the World Cup was on, pretty much writing it off as a form guide. "Last year's final hurt the most," said Youngs. "That will be at the back of everyone's mind when we run out on Saturday."
Essentially there is no reason why Harlequins should go weak at the knees travelling up the M1, but the Tigers believe themselves to be in good nick, with only the loosehead prop Marcos Ayerza unavailable, leaving Logo Mulipola to face Quins' formidable tighthead James Johnston. The Tigers had London Irish wheeling and splintering in the scrum, but around the fringes the Leicester-bound Jamie Gibson gave Ben Youngs the hurry-up, if not always legally.
Talking of right and wrong, Irish's late tries by Topsy Ojo and Marland Yarde were things of beauty, grace and pace, but the visiting scrum-half Darren Allinson can surely expect a disciplinary summons after appearing to kick Geordan Murphy in the back of the head. With no television match official in action and a degree of uncertainty as to how much the young referee Luke Pearce and his assistants saw, only a penalty was awarded. Murphy was incensed and needed to be held back from remonstrating with Allinson, but there was nothing like the furore some might recall from the corresponding fixture many moons ago when Austin Healey's boot made a mess of the face of London Irish's Kevin Putt. The referee's position on that occasion? Unsighted.
Scorers: Leicester: Tries Croft, B Youngs, Tait, Goneva, Flood; Conversions Flood 2; Penalty Flood.
London Irish: Tries Corbisiero, Ojo, Yarde; Conversion Humphreys; Penalty Humphreys.
Leicester: G Murphy (capt); N Morris, M Tuilagi, A Allen (M Tait 40), V Goneva; T Flood (G Ford 68), B Youngs (S Harrison 62); L Mulipola (F Balmain 66), T Youngs (R Hawkins 66), M Castrogiovanni (D Cole 55), G Kitchener, G Parling, T Croft (S Mafi 60), J Salvi (T Waldrom 68), J Crane.
London Irish: T Homer; T Ojo, J Joseph, G Armitage, M Yarde; I Humphreys (S Geraghty 68), D Allinson (J Moates 66); A Corbisiero (J Yanuyanutawa 68), S Lawson (D Paice 49), H Aulika (L Halavatu 62), G Skivington (capt), B Evans (K Low 68), M Garvey (J Sinclair 62), J Gibson, O Treviranus (D Danaher 62).
Referee: L Pearce (Devon).
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