Rowntree's instinct tells him Youngs is ready to mix with the big guns

Hartley's injury means young Leicester hooker gets an early chance to shine for England

Graham Rowntree openly admitted yesterday that he was not entirely certain whether Tom Youngs, a molten-hot favourite to make his England debut at hooker against Fiji at Twickenham this weekend, is ready for the relentless rigours of international union. "Who can say for definite until they've seen him out there on the field, going up against the best players in the world?" asked the red-rose forwards coach. "At this stage, nobody can say they're sure about him."

But Rowntree, who knows what it is to play Test rugby at the sharp and painful end, is a man who trusts his instincts, and those instincts tell him that Youngs, thrust into the spotlight because of injury to the senior hooker Dylan Hartley, is more than capable of surviving – and, indeed, thriving. "From what I'm seeing of him, both in training with us and in the big games he's playing for Leicester, he's ready enough," he added.

Youngs, whose brother Ben is one of three scrum-halves in the England squad for this four-match international series against major southern hemisphere opposition, caught the eye playing for the midweek team on the demanding tour of South Africa in June. He did not, however, feature in any of the meetings with the Springboks and would still be on the outside looking in but for Hartley's knee problem and the long-term shoulder condition affecting the Bath forward Rob Webber.

"Dylan's injury has forced us to look at Tom as a possible starting hooker a bit earlier than we'd hoped," Rowntree admitted, "but I must stress that I have every confidence in him. One of the things I like about Tom is that he wants to scrummage – and as we know, two of the things a hooker must be able to do is throw to the lineout and scrummage under pressure. But he is able to do more than that. The dynamic things he does away from the set-piece areas put him ahead of other people."

Some of Youngs' recent lineout marksmanship has been a little on the wild side: no one in the Kingsholm crowd for the recent Premiership game between Gloucester and Leicester would have mistaken him for William Tell. But there is no disputing his ability with ball in hand, developed in a previous rugby life as a first-team centre. "There aren't many players capable of making such a radical positional switch," said Rowntree, admiringly.

Another player preparing to tread new ground at Twickenham is the Gloucester back Charlie Sharples, whose only international start to date was against France in Paris towards the end of last season's Six Nations. "To be part of an England team winning over there was a fantastic experience, but I don't think I made the most of that opportunity in personal terms," Sharples said yesterday. "It was a big chance for me because I'd been on the fringes for a while, but looking back it may be that I saw it as too much of a chance. It wasn't my best game."

Two of the forwards who started Tests against the South Africans in the summer – the Saracens lock Mouritz Botha and the Gloucester back-rower Ben Morgan – were released from camp last night as part of a 10-strong group not required for this weekend. Botha has lost his place in the match-day party to the uncapped Wasps youngster Joe Launchbury, while Morgan has failed to unseat the incumbent No 8, Thomas Waldrom of Leicester.

Others who missed the cut included the Northampton half-back Lee Dickson and the Wasps flanker James Haskell.


election 2015The 10 best quotes of the campaign
A caravan being used as a polling station in Ford near Salisbury, during the 2010 election
election 2015The Independent's guide to get you through polling day
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month
voicesWhat I learnt from my years in government, by the former Home Secretary David Blunkett
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'