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.

BUY RUGBY WORLD CUP TICKETS

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
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

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test