This time last year Dylan Hartley probably hadn’t even considered Leicester’s Tom Youngs as his main rival for the England number two jersey - but the Northampton Saints man certainly will by the time the Six Nations begin according to Lions flanker Tom Croft.
Hartley and Youngs were named as the only two hookers in Stuart Lancaster’s 32-man squad.
Youngs senior’s selection was hardly a surprise having featured from the start in all four of England’s autumn internationals following an injury to then first-choice hooker Hartley.
But while Hartley will have been impressed by Youngs’ displays his rise to prominence remains a surprise having switched positions three years ago after struggling to break in to the Tigers’ first team as a centre.
Hartley’s return to form and fitness is likely to see the Northampton Saints hooker return to the starting XV for England’s opener against Scotland on February 2, Croft who has grown up at Leicester with Youngs believes the 26-year-old will have a fight on his hands to build on his haul of 42 international caps.
“Tom is in a great position with England having done so well in the autumn,” said Croft.
“Dylan is obviously coming back into form now but that is a good thing. They will push each other and make sure they will have to fight for that shirt if they play.
“It is a good position to be in having competition behind you but I back Tom, he is a hard worker and he is a great asset for England.
“Watching him play for England and the way he threw is the best I have ever seen from him and every since that first game against Fiji his throwing has improved.
“It is actually quite remarkable that he has gone from hitting 50-60 percent of balls to going up to the high 90s.”
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