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Youngs: Lions start is 'dream'

Tom Youngs will continue his remarkable ascent to world rugby's higher echelons when he lines up for the British and Irish Lions on Saturday.

The Leicester and England forward, who only converted from a centre to hooker four years ago, packs down in the Lions front-row alongside Gethin Jenkins and Matt Stevens against Queensland Reds. A strong performance by the Tigers player would leave him firmly in the first Test selection mix against Australia alongside Richard Hibbard and Rory Best.

And having met every rugby challenge that has so far come his way, it would be a fool's game to bet against him being in the Lions' Test line-up when they return to Brisbane on June 22. "The Lions is massive, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and it's suddenly come round. I can't wait for it to be honest," he said.

"I've come off the bench in the last two games, so I've tasted a little bit. There is still that nervous excitement on the bench because you are never sure when you're going to get on.

"To be given the shirt to start, however, is a dream come true.

"When you see all the players that have gone before you, suddenly you are one of them. And believe me, that is quite some thing."

Norfolk-born Youngs could easily have been attempting to fight off England squad colleague Dylan Hartley's challenge in Australia.

But Hartley's dismissal in the Aviva Premiership final against Leicester for verbally abusing referee Wayne Barnes led to an 11-week ban and Ulsterman Best being handed a late Lions call.

"I feel very sorry for Dylan," Youngs added. "He was caught up in a situation. These things can happen. But even if he was here challenging, it would still have been the same.

"Rory, for example, is a great player, and there are so many great players to learn from. When you meet up at first you can sometimes have different opinions about someone, partly because you've played against them, but I am really enjoying my time with the Lions."


From Belfast Telegraph