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.

News
The guide, since withdrawn, used illustrations and text to help people understand the court process (Getty)
newsMinistry of Justice gets law 'terribly wrong' in its guide to courts
News
Bobbi Kristina Brown with her mother Whitney Houston in 2011
people
News
Starting the day with a three-egg omelette could make people more charitable, according to new research
scienceFeed someone a big omelette, and they may give twice as much, thanks to a compound in the eggs
News
Top Gun actor Val Kilmer lost his small claims court battle in Van Nuys with the landlord of his Malibu mansion to get back his deposit after wallpapering over the kitchen cabinets
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
The actress Geraldine McEwan was perhaps best known for playing Agatha Christie's detective, Miss Marple (Rex)
peopleShe won a Bafta in 1991 for her role in Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit
News
newsPatrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
News
Robert Fraser, aka Groovy Bob
peopleA new show honours Robert Fraser, one of the era's forgotten players
Life and Style
Torsten Sherwood's Noook is a simple construction toy for creating mini-architecture
tech
Sport
David Silva celebrates with Sergio Aguero after equalising against Chelsea
footballChelsea 1 Manchester City 1
News
i100
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

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links