Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Front Row Double at Players' Player of the Year Awards

The Front Row Union celebrated a double victory last night as Tom Youngs was voted as Players' Player of the Year and Fraser Balmain won the Players' Young Player of Year. 

Hooker Tom Youngs has played 20 times for the first team this season (including pre-season friendlies against Nottingham and Ulster) and will make his 50th first appearance since his 2006 debut in his next game.  

Youngs was an age grade international center only transferring to the hooking berth on the suggestion of Heyneke Meyer in 2008.  He then spent the best part of 3 season on loan at Midlands rivals Nottingham playing 42 games as he learned his craft in England's second tier.

Last season he didn't start a Premiership game but featured off the bench in the Final against Harlequins and was called up to England's tour to South Africa where he started both mid week matches.  Going from strength to strength after that tour Tom secured the starting shirt for Tigers first game of the season, away to London Welsh, where he set up a try for Thomas Waldrom.  

Injuries to others gave him his chance in an England shirt and after only 9 starts in either league or Europe for Leicester he was lining up at Twickenham for his England debut against Fiji, starts against Australia and South Africa followed before Youngs started in England's record win against the All Blacks.  He was an ever present in the 6 Nations and now has 9 caps with 8 of them starts.

Fraser Balmain is a 21 year old from Newcastle comfortable on either side of the scrum.  He came off the bench twice last season before spending a month in Clermont-Ferrand as part of the two clubs Academy Exchange programme.  This period seems to have helped Balmain kick on as he has over taken other young props first to start regularly for the A League side and then to make his Premiership debut against Exeter in September.

It was Balmain's first start that really caught the eye though as he impressed in both the scrum and the lose during the win against the touring New Zealand Maori side, their first loss for 5 years.  His first Premiership start was 12 days later against Wasps at Adams Park and though the result was not what was wanted young Balmain reinforced his burgeoning reputation.

At 17 Newcastle decided they didn't want to offer Balmain a professional deal, so his coach at the city's Royal Grammar School sent off his highlights DVD to both Leicester and Northampton; Saints offered a 3 month deal but Tigers risked a full year and have been amply rewarded.

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