The England scrumhalf Ben Youngs has said that he thinks the team have the strength and depth to manage without the injured Billy Vunipola.

Vunipola will be absent from the upcoming international games after he had knee surgery on Sunday. He is expected to be out of action for four months and will have to work hard to be fit for next year’s Six Nations.

Youngs said that Vunipola is a “key cog” but said that his absence means that other players, such as Nathan Hughes, will have a chance to shine.

Speaking to Sky Sports News Youngs said, “Billy is a wrecking ball but he’s much more than that with the subtleties he has. There’s no doubt he’s a key cog in this side but he also had a similar injury last year and Nathan Hughes came in and did a terrific job. We are very blessed to have the strength in depth that we do, especially in the back row.”

He wished Vunipola a “speedy recovery” but said that the team is lucky to have other players capable of filling in for him.

He thinks that the team will be “genuine contenders” for the 2019 World Cup if they continue their upward curve and said that young players, such as Marcus Smith, are bringing a new energy to the squad.

Youngs has predicted a bright future for the 18-year-old fly-half Smith and said that his selection in Eddie Jones’ England training camp is “definitely something to be excited about”.

He said that having young players brings a “good energy and a new dynamic” to the team and said that if Smith “continues to develop like you’ve already seen this year, then the future is certainly bright for his playing career.”