Tigers' George Chuter salutes Tom Youngs
Leicester Tigers hooker George Chuter says he will take a back seat this season if it helps the development of England-capped Tom Youngs.
That doesn't mean the 36-year-old will be "laying down the red carpet" for his rival for the No.2 shirt.
But it does mean Chuter, who is likely to start at Wasps on Sunday, has one eye on the club's future.
Before Youngs went away on international duty at the start of November, Chuter was yet to start a game this season.
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After 279 appearances in club colours, that might have been hard to take. But a chat with director of rugby Richard Cockerill in pre-season fully prepared him for what was coming.
"I spoke to Richard Cockerill in the summer and I knew which direction we were going in," he said. "Tom Youngs is a good young player and he is doing very well at the moment.
"That doesn't mean I am happy to stand aside, but I am at a stage of my career where I can accept it.
"Five years ago, I would have been resentful, sulky and negative about it. I still have the same ambitions to play for the club but I have matured as a person.
"I am not thinking of anything further than Leicester now.
"It's not all about me being the best I can be to play for England any more, it's about letting a young guy develop. If Cockers thinks it's the right thing for the club to have me on the bench, then I will take that.
"I won't be happy but it's more important that the club does well."
Youngs, 25, will start for England with scrum-half brother Ben against South Africa tomorrow – a mark of the progress he has made since changing from a centre back in 2009.
And Chuter, inset, says his front-row partner deserves a lot more credit than he has received for making such an incredible transformation in such a short space of time.
"He's an aggressive little devil and he is perfectly suited to the job," said Chuter. "His line-out throwing has come on hugely since he started. That part of his game has received criticism in some quarters, but not many of those people are in the front-row playing against him are they?
"The odd throw goes astray but you would take that when he makes 20 tackles a game and smashes people around the breakdown.
"He is a work in progress but he is not far off.
"It is important for me to keep driving myself and training hard, which I have been doing, to keep Tom on his toes.
"If I stopped doing that, he might become content. We all need a push at times.
"Having said that, I am not going to roll out the red carpet for him all season and say 'Here is the shirt Tom'. He will have to earn it."