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England v Fiji, November 10
Rowntree has 'every confidence' in Youngs
ESPN Staff
November 7, 2012
England's Tom Youngs wings the ball on in training, St George's Park, Burton-upon-Trent, England, October 29, 2012
Tom Youngs is set to make his England debut on Saturday © Getty Images
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Players/Officials: Graham Rowntree | Tom Youngs
Teams: England

England coach Graham Rowntree has backed Tom Youngs to deliver on the international stage despite his lack of experience in the front-row.

Youngs has started just nine matches for the Leicester Tigers in the Heineken Cup and the Aviva Premiership at hooker and is set to make his England debut on Saturday against Fiji. He was previously lining up in the centres but former Tigers coach Heyneke Meyer saw Youngs' future in the front-row. A spell at Nottingham on loan followed but he has been a prominent part of the Leicester side this season.

And Rowntree is confident that the rookie can emulate World Cup-winner Steve Thompson by learning his trade on the international scene. Thompson was originally a flanker but he was identified early by Clive Woodward as England's 2003 World Cup hooker and mastered the role.

Rowntree concedes Youngs is being plunged into Test rugby sooner than he would have liked because of Dylan Hartley's knee injury but he believes the 25-year-old could develop into a top-class international.

"You can't expect Tom to be the finished article from day one but the signs are he is going to be a very, very good player going forward," Rowntree said. "You have to learn at the coal face and he is learning quickly.

"I refer back to Dylan Hartley as a young hooker for England and Steve Thompson. They were learning for long periods, throwing under pressure."

Like Thompson before him, Youngs' most obvious weakness is the accuracy of his lineout throwing but Rowntree is excited by his all-round game.

"He has not had it all his own way in terms of the lineout," Rowntree said. "What impresses me is how he has recovered from setbacks within games. He is a strong character and will get stronger and stronger.

"I have known Tom since he was in the Leicester academy and to make such a radical change (in position) is impressive. His performances are a stand-out. You have to be able to throw and scrummage under pressure. The things he brings outside that, the real dynamic stuff, sets him ahead of other people.

"Is he being pushed too quickly? I am not absolutely sure. The fact Dylan is injured means we have to look at him a bit earlier than we would have hoped to. But from what I am seeing the signs are he will pass the test at the top level. I have every confidence in him."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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