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Richard Cockerill hails Leicester Tigers hooker Tom Youngs

Published 21/12/2015

Richard Cockerill are closing in on the knockout stages
Richard Cockerill are closing in on the knockout stages

Richard Cockerill believes Tom Youngs should be the "first name on the England team sheet" after the hooker helped Leicester Tigers close in on a European Champions Cup quarter-final place.

The 28-year-old, who has been capped 28 times, was outstanding as Leicester completed the double over two-time champions Munster with a 17-6 home win which keeps them top of Pool 4 on 18 points.

England's new boss Eddie Jones is reported to want Northampton hooker Dylan Hartley as his new captain but Cockerill says Youngs deserves a place.

Cockerill, Leicester's director of rugby, said: "Tom Youngs is the form hooker in the country by a country mile.

"He has been outstanding for the last six or eight weeks, with his attitude and work rate.

"Tommy should be the first name on the team sheet and he has captained our side. He leads by example with his behaviour, training and playing.

"I don't care about the captaincy but Tommy is the person to play No.2 when England play Scotland.

"And there is no reason why he can't lead the side, or Ed Slater, or Ben Youngs. There's a lot of captaincy options here.

"I don't know about Dylan Hartley captaining the side but Tom is the best hooker in England by a country mile."

Leicester, who won 31-19 in Munster last weekend, had to work hard for their win at Welford Road and it owed as much to their defence as their attack.

Munster missed several golden try-scoring opportunities, not least when centre Francis Salli was caught by Telusa Veainu after an 80-metre interception in the 62nd minute.

Leicester were leading 10-6 at the time and they made the most of the escape with a 66th-minute try by Vereniki Goneva to add to the first-half try by captain Ed Slater.

Fly-half Freddie Burns also kicked seven points on his seasonal debut and Cockerill believes the Tigers will be in pole position for a home quarter-final if they beat Benetton Treviso at home next month before going to Stade Francais.

He said: "We have got to win the group, that is key. We have got Treviso here next and we would like to get as many points as we can. If we can get to 22, 23 points with one game to go you would like to think we get a home quarter-final, but we will see.

"I thought Munster played really well. They put us under huge pressure and there were three bits of defensive play that saved us.

"The attitude of the players was outstanding and they should take huge credit for that.

"We are disappointed with how we played but we found a way to win, just like we did last week."

Fly-half Ian Keatley kicked two penalties from four for Munster and head coach Anthony Foley felt their failure to score from the interception was a "massive moment" and said his side need to be more ruthless.

He said: "We thought we should have won last week and we will leave here thinking we probably should have won this one.

"Why didn't we? We are not scoring. We have to be ruthless in that area.

"It wasn't as frustrating as last week but I'm annoyed at the way we turn over ball and how loose we are around it.

"We worked hard to get into positions to create opportunities and we just let it go."

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