- Tom Croft puts try against France behind him to focus on Ireland
- Irish can create opportunities "out of nothing" warns Leicester flanker
After scoring a superb try with a moment of individual sparkle against France, life doesn’t get any easier for flanker Tom Croft as he prepares to face one of the most experienced back rows in the RBS 6 Nations when England take on Ireland on Saturday.
Croft produced a vintage performance in Paris, topped off with a try ten minutes from time, but the Leicester Tigers man is wary of the threat posed by the tournament’s top try scorers who have won three of their last four visits to Twickenham.
Declan Kidney’s starting XV also sees Leinster’s Sean O’Brien return to the back row alongside Stephen Ferris and Jamie Heaslip in a dynamic combination who will look to put pressure on England from the off.
“They had a close loss against Wales and a draw against France but they are currently the tournament’s top try scoring team so they obviously have got threats all over the squad not just in the front five, back row and their backs,” he told RFUtv.
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“They are a dangerous side whether they are creating it from set moves or intercepts or just individual brilliance. Players like Tommy Bowe and Stephen Ferris – those sort of players can actually create a lot of things out of nothing.
“We have to be fully aware of that this weekend and it’s going to take a lot of work. [We need to] go over the France game as quickly as possible and flick that switch over to Ireland as soon as we can.”
While recognising the tough nature of the match, Croft believes facing teams of Ireland’s calibre is the only way Stuart Lancaster’s young side can improve.
“You don’t want it to get easier,” the 26-year-old explained. “This team needs big tests and I think to have France away is massive and then Ireland at home where I think they have won three out of the last four times they have come to Twickenham so it’s a massive massive test for this side and it’s what we need.
“The way we are going to grow is by having tough teams to play against.”
Memories of Leicester’s 41-7 defeat to Ulster, which saw the former European champions crash out of the Heineken Cup in January, have helped Croft in his preparation ahead of the RBS 6 Nations finale and he believes playing against Ulster poses a similar challenge to the international side.
Croft said: “They start very very quickly. I think maybe we were caught a little bit cold in Ulster and I think we have been caught a couple of times against Ireland so that’ll be the sort of things we talk about this week – not to be caught cold and make sure we take the game to them and we start the first ten or 15 minutes as we did against France. Really pile on the pressure and hope to come upwith some sort of points.
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“So I just think it’s important that the boys are aware of that. But they play Irish teams in their domestic league anyway so we don’t need to tell these guys, they are fully aware of the challenge ahead. Everyone has seen Ireland play and the sort of players Ireland have. The guys aren’t stupid.”
Taking a moment to reflect on his score, his fourth in an England shirt, Croft was modest when asked whether it was the best try in his career.
“It was probably my most memorable obviously because for a side that’s growing and we went into that game as the underdogs, it was nice to secure a win and grab the score,” he said.
But he said the try had come on the back of a “lot of hard work” in the England squad throughout the tournament and added: “It’s an exciting place to be at the moment. Obviously the biggest test now is backing it up against Ireland this weekend at Twickenham but the boys are excited. It’s our last chance to play in an England shirt for a while so I’m sure the guys will take their chance.”