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Covid keeps career milestones on hold

If the interminable wait for the resumption of rugby is bad for you, just take a second to put yourself in the shoes of Tom Youngs and Ben Youngs.

Back in March, when sport was still the measure by which you set your weekly calendar, Ben was looking forward to marking his 100th England cap as the Six Nations was scheduled to come to a close in Italy.

Simultaneously, older brother Tom was looking at the end of a four-week suspension and the chance of making his 150th start in Tigers colours at a Welford Road clash with traditional club rivals Bath. To add to the occasion, it would have been the 200th meeting of the old foes.

Both remain on hold.

Both men, though, deserve all the praise they get for moving within reach of those landmarks.

Ben always seemed destined for stardom, coming through the Tigers ranks in the bootsteps of his dad Nick to become the country’s leading scrum-half. It’s not all been plain-sailing, though, and he’s had to stay ahead of competition from all angles.

Don’t forget either that Ben has played every game of his senior career at the highest points of the sport – as a Tiger and a Test match 9 – and that is no mean feat over the 13 years since his club debut.

Coaches have come and gone, while a band of critics remain, but Youngs has been first choice in whichever shirt he has worn for the bulk of that time. He has become a spokesman and a leader, he’s played in Cup Finals, World Cups and been selected on two Lions tours. That puts him right at the sharp end of the game’s participants.

Tom’s journey was more complicated, of course – via England age-group representation as a centre and the remarkable transformation to Lions hooker – but no less impressive.

At some stage we will all reflect on his miraculous ascent to Lions selection after that mid-career move, but he wears the Tigers heart on his sleeve at all times, he has captained Tigers in Premiership rugby more than anyone bar Martin Johnson and is the beating heart of the squad. They are all qualities which make it even tougher on him in a Tigers team which has fallen below its own expectations in recent seasons.

Both deserve huge credit and they thoroughly deserve their moment in the sun, whenever that may be.