Tom Croft believes Ben Youngs is back to his best a year out from the next Lions tour.
Youngs has long been among the favourites for a scrum-half spot when Britain and Ireland’s elite face the Wallabies in 2013 but a dip in form led to him losing his England place earlier this season.
The Leicester youngster had minor knee surgery prior to the 2011 World Cup and, although he impressed in parts in New Zealand, he lost his starting place in the recent RBS 6 Nations to Northampton’s Lee Dickson.
And with Harlequins star Danny Care producing some outstanding performances after his international suspension for drink driving, Youngs faces a tough battle to be England’s first-choice No9 by the time the Lions head Down Under next summer.
But, even though Youngs is now facing up to three months out with a shoulder injury, his Leicester team-mate is convinced a good season lies ahead for the 22-year-old.
“Ben was superb on the South Africa tour and I couldn’t be more pleased to see him back at the top of his game,” said 2009 Test Lion Croft.
“You could see in the Premiership final he was approaching his best form and he really showed that in South Africa.
“In that second Test he pretty much single-handedly brought us back into the game with his two tries and that’s great for someone who I think has been very unfairly criticised over the past couple of years.
“So for him to show everyone what he is capable of was fantastic. He’s one of England’s best and it was just a shame for him that he picked up an injury for the last Test.
“I'm just pleased that Ben is showing everyone what he can do.”