Dylan Hartley says he always knew England team-mate Tom Youngs would make a great hooker.
The pair will go head to head on Saturday as Hartley’s Saints take on Youngs’ Leicester Tigers in the Premiership grand final at Twickenham.
The east midlands derby is the most eagerly-awaited contest of the domestic campaign with huge individual battles all over the pitch.
Hartley’s clash with Youngs will be one of the most talked about as the duo are rivals for the England No.2 shirt and will by vying for the Lions’ hooker spot in Australia this summer.
But the Saints man has nothing but praise for his Tigers counterpart and says he always knew Youngs would become a top hooker, despite starting his career at centre.
“I played in the same England Under 19s team with him when he was a centre,” explained Hartley. “I’ve moved one over (from prop) and he’s done the extreme.
“I watched him play at Bedford a few years ago and I said when he sorts his throwing out he’ll be a great hooker, and he’s done that.”
Hartley, Youngs and Welshman Richard Hibbard are Warren Gatland’s chosen three hookers for the Lions’ trip Down Under.
The Saints skipper knows Saturday’s game is a good chance to stake his claim for the starting shirt, though his primary focus remains helping his club claim silverware.
“I’ve got a feeling that a few people think I’m in the Lions team to cover the third hooker position, but I see this weekend as a trial match for myself to hold my hand up and push myself forward,” he said.
“Without thinking about the Lions – I’m going there to play well for my club and win a trophy – it’s an opportunity for me to play well and hold my hand up.”