Richard Cockerill relishing fascinating battle as Leicester Tigers hookers fight for one shirt
Leicester Tigers director of rugby Richard Cockerill says the hooker's shirt is there for the taking at the club.
George Chuter held the No.2 jersey for much of last season, starting 29 games.
But with Tom Youngs gaining experience after a summer tour with England, he was given the starting shirt for Sunday's 38-13 win against London Welsh.
Rob Hawkins is also back from injury and has been looking sharp during pre-season.
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It is set to be a fascinating battle to see if either man can dislodged Chuter in the long-term.
"The hooker spot is pretty open this year," said Cockerill.
"Chutes is 36 and, at some point, he has to be overtaken.
"Tom is 25 and Rob is 29, and the challenge for them is to be better than Chutes. Tom has a huge amount of potential and his physicality is tremendous.
"Rob did some good things last season and it is good to see him back from his elbow injury. It's there for them to displace Chutes."
Cockerill says it is not just the No.2 shirt where there is huge competition for places this season, and that can only be good for the side's chances of making it to a ninth consecutive Premiership final.
"Look at that back row and, with respect, our sixth and seventh-choice back-rowers could be Richard Thorpe and Brett Deacon," said Cockerill. "I see that as a real positive.
"Those two were really good against Jersey in our first game, we have Ed Slater coming back around the middle-to-end of September and Tom Croft will be in there as well when he returns.
"There is some real quality in the back and second row this season.
"If guys who start on the bench play well when they get their chance, they will play ahead of the so-called established guys.
"That has always been the way here and it will continue to be so.
"I am really pleased with the squad – getting them all fit and healthy is the key."
Only scrum-half Micky Young is facing a potential spell on the sidelines after Tigers opened their Aviva Premiership account at London Welsh on Sunday with a 38-13 win.
The former Newcastle Falcon, who joined Tigers in the summer of 2011 only to spend most of his first year at Welford Road either injured or suspended, went over on his ankle in the first half and was replaced by Sam Harrison.