Youngs makes his big gamble pay dividends

Tom Youngs’s remarkable rise from club centre to British and Irish Lions Test hooker will be showcased at Suncorp Stadium today.

British and Irish Lions' Tom Youngs

Four years ago, he was an on-loan player at Nottingham, just beginning a career in the front-row.

Now, the biggest game of his life beckons, packing down against Australia after beating squad colleagues Richard Hibbard and Rory Best to the No 2 shirt.

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“Even at the beginning of this season I wouldn’t have even thought about playing for the Lions,” said Youngs.

“It is a dream come true. It is quite hard to take in at the moment, but when I am standing in that changing room and running out, words cannot describe probably what will be going through my head and my heart will be pumping.

“I cannot wait for it, really.

“You have to prepare yourself for however long you can go for. I’m going to go as hard as I can for as long as I can.

“When my engine runs out or when the coaches feel it’s right to pull me out of the action, Richard Hibbard will come on.

“He’s a great player, he will come on and be very physical and do well.

“The set-piece in any game is massive but there is going to be an extra edge to it. We are all really looking forward to it and cannot wait for the battle to come.”

Leicester and England forward Youngs is quick to praise those who have helped him make his unlikely positional switch such a success.

He admitted there were plenty of teething troubles as he got to grips with a whole new ball game.

“It was quite hard at first,” he added. “I could put the weight on quite easily, but I couldn’t carry it around the park so I had to drop a couple of kilos and build it up slowly over the course of the season.

“That was quite difficult, but at the end of the day it was all about playing as many games as I possibly could in the season.

“When I was at Nottingham, I played more than 60 games for them over two seasons. I started pretty much every game, and 80 minutes of every game, just to get that repetition of playing at hooker.

“I have had a lot of people who have helped me on that journey to get me to this position.

“I would like to thank them. They have put a lot of time in with me, and I really appreciate that. Heyneke Meyer (former Leicester head coach) was the one who turned to me and gave me the opportunity to change to hooker.

“Richard Cockerill (current Leicester director of rugby) took over and kept it going, and he could easily have stopped it and said we weren’t going to bother with it.

“Then I went to Nottingham with Glenn Delaney, George Chuter helped me through, as did (throwing coach) Simon Hardy. There are so many people who have been a part of it.”

Youngs, 26, will be up against 76 times-capped Wallabies hooker Stephen Moore, a player who has been at the Test match coal-face since 2005.

“I have watched him, and he is a great player, a proven pro over the years with Australia,” added Youngs.