Inside the Tigers’ Den - Youngs and Kitchener set to feature for England

Dan Cole returns for the Leicester Tigers against Sale Sharks. Photo: Tiger Images EMN-141011-125001001
Dan Cole returns for the Leicester Tigers against Sale Sharks. Photo: Tiger Images EMN-141011-125001001

Leicester Tigers only representative in the England squad that lost 24-21 to New Zealand on Saturday, Ben Youngs, may just have done enough off the bench to earn a start against South Africa this weekend.

There is a good chance he will be joined by clubmate Graham Kitchener as well who would make his debut if he is named in the squad for the second of the Autumn internationals.

Leicester Tigers v Barbarians. Photo: Tigers Images EMN-141011-124753001

Leicester Tigers v Barbarians. Photo: Tigers Images EMN-141011-124753001

Youngs came on with 19 minutes left to play at Twickenham and had a solid if unspectacular game but the man he is fighting it out with for a starting spot, Harlequins’ Danny Care, failed to impress.

He was his normal lively self in the first half but some wayward box kicking and poor game management when All Blacks hooker Dane Coles was shown yellow for kicking out in a ruck, allowed the defending world champions back into a match in the second half after England had been leading at half time.

England head coach Stuart Lancaster explained that Youngs had come on partially because of his ability to play in wet conditions - and it doesn’t get much wetter than the final quarter of the match on Saturday.

Lancaster is a very loyal coach but Youngs has an excellent chance of wearing the number nine shirt against the Boks.

Leicester Tigers v Barbarians. Photo: Tigers Images EMN-141011-124723001

Leicester Tigers v Barbarians. Photo: Tigers Images EMN-141011-124723001

Kitchener has once again been called into the 34-man training squad to prepare for the Spring Boks and he has a brilliant chance at making the match day 23 this week with Courtney Lawes undergoing the Graduated Return To Play protocol overseen by the England medical team after suffering concussion during the first half against New Zealand.

Saracens’ young lock George Kruis looked every part the international on his debut on Saturday and should Lawes not play he will almost certainly slot into the starting line-up, with the agile Kitchener likely to take his place on the bench.

The second row battle will be a fascinating area of competition against South Africa who have three of the world’s best locks in their squad in the form of the enormous Eben Etzebeth, Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha.

Back in the world of club rugby Tigers face one of the hardest tasks in the domestic game when they take on Saracens on Sunday.

However they will go into the match on a high after producing an impressive second half display to come from behind and beat Sale Sharks 29-13 in their second LV= Cup game yesterday (Sunday).

Prop Dan Cole made his return to rugby after a 10 month injury lay off as Tigers turned the table on their opponents who led 13-3 at halftime.

A brace from Miles Benjamin and tries from youngster Harry Thacker and long-term clubman Matt Smith gave Leicester the victory.

Freddie Burns kicked nine points in the win.

Leicester Tigers director of rugby Richard Cockerill said: “To be 10 points down at half-time and have 26 unanswered points in the second half was brilliant for us.”

It was an incredibly busy week for Leicester who played a historic high scoring game against the Barbarians on Tuesday. The star-studded invitational side ran out 59-26 winners scoring nine tries to Leicester’s four on the night.

It was an open game throughout with the type of expansive flair rugby associated with the Baabaas the scores were close at Welford Road at half time with the visitors leading 21-19.

South African Juan de Jongh opened the scoring followed by prop Thomas du Toitand and Francis Saili. All three were converted by Marnitz Boshoff.

Leicester hit back through: Freddie Burns, Jamie Gibson and Christian Loamanu.

But after the break the Baabaas went up through the gears and scored six tries to the Tigers’ solitary score for replacement Paul Grant.

The Barbarians crossed the line through South African back row Henrich Brussow, Tom English, Michael Rhodes, de Jongh again and future New Zealand star Tevita Li. The final score of the game was fittingly touched down by Jacques Botes who was playing his final competitive game before retiring.

The number eight, who has South Africa’s record for most Super Rugby appearances, converted the final effort as well and was carried from the pitch on the shoulders of his team mates.

Cockerill said: “In the end I was applauding another team scoring at Welford Road - for the first time ever.

“It was a great game and that is what these occasions are about. It was a great spectacle, nobody will go away disappointed, regardless of the score.”

Perhaps the most promising thing from a Tigers point of view was the performance of some of their young players, most notably second row Harry Wells who put in an impressive performance carrying hard in open play to great success.

The former Deepings RFC player has also represented the England U20s. He was joined in the Leicester side by former Stamford School player George Nairn who came off the bench at hooker to give a local flavour to the match.