May 20 2013 Latest news:
Friday, November 9, 2012
Norfolk’s Tom Youngs will make his England Test debut in tomorrow’s Twickenham international against Fiji.
He becomes the third member of the North Norfolk farming family to be capped by England following his father Nick, who wore the number nine jersey for his country six times in the 1980s, and younger brother Ben, who will be tomorrow hoping to add to his 24 caps after being named among the replacements.
Leicester hooker Tom, who played twice in midweek fixtures during the summer tour of South Africa, will start alongside Joe Marler and Dan Cole in the England front row in the opening fixtures in the four-Test autumn series.
England coach Stuart Lancaster welcomed him into the fold yesterday, saying: “Congratulations to Tom Youngs, who has made a great transition from centre to hooker in a short period and deserves his chance.”
Lancaster’s selection is his most inexperienced team yet, including not only Tom Youngs but 11 players with 13 caps or fewer.
The Saracens prop Mako Vunipola and Wasps lock Joe Launchbury, both 21, are also primed to make their England debuts off the bench after impressive starts to the Aviva Premiership season.
If they do come on, Lancaster will have capped 16 new players in nine Test matches as he attempts to build an England team for the generation.
Lancaster is determined to emulate New Zealand and end the need for England coaches to constantly rebuild the team at the start of every new World Cup cycle.
But he also maintains that England’s long-term gain does not have to mean short-term pain as they go on to face Australia, South Africa and the All Blacks.
“When I took over in December we needed to bring through a new generation of players because we had a significant number of the World Cup squad who were post-30,” Lancaster said.
“Someone said the All Blacks don’t go through that period of renewal, it is a gradual drip-feed of new players - and that is where we should be from now on. I don’t see England in the next eight to 12 years going through the sort of change we have had to go through.
“The Fiji game is the start of a huge four-week journey for us that will test us in every way. It is about putting a marker down at the start of this four-game series. The inexperience is not a concern or a risk because we delivered good performances in the Six Nations and that experience will grow with every game.
“I have based the decisions on the form of the players in the Premiership and in Europe. This is not a youth policy. No-one could argue Joe Launchbury is a development pick - he is the form lock at the moment and he deserves his chance.”
When England won the World Cup in 2003 they were nick-named Dad’s Army but their average age was only 28, the same as New Zealand last year whose squad boasted a combined total of 709 caps.
In stark contrast, England’s 23-man squad on Saturday have just 284 but Lancaster has charted where his squad could be in terms of experience by 2015. And he is confident England can strike the perfect balance of international experience and age, given the days of Dad’s Army have now gone.
Lancaster used England’s loosehead prop stocks as an example. Where once a prop was said to peak at 30, Joe Marler is 22, Vunipola 21 and Alex Corbisiero 24.
“By the time 2015 comes around they will hopefully have 30-odd caps under their belt and we end with a team that is peaking with the age between 25 and 30,” Lancaster said.
“Youngsters now are far more technically prepared than ever before. Physically they are far better prepared. When you look at the gym there is no difference between what Joe Launchbury can do and Tom Palmer can do.
“If anthing the younger players haven’t had the injuries and the other problems associated with playing for a long time at the highest level.
“Mentally they are robust. They are good professionals who understand what it takes. It is different.”
Twickenham will be an 82,000 sell-out for the Fiji game, the best crowd England have ever attracted for a Test against a tier two nation.