- Tom Croft looks to banish injury woes
- First England involvement since last year's RBS 6 Nations
Flanker Tom Croft knows more than most how fragile a rugby career can be. A horrific injury sustained in an Aviva Premiership encounter last April left him in a neck brace for eight weeks and sidelined for the following eight months before he finally returned to club duty last month. Which makes his return to the England fold this week after only five appearances for Leicester all the more impressive.
Head Coach Stuart Lancaster today named Croft in his match day 23 for Sunday's RBS 6 Nations clash with Italy at Twickenham and the 36-cap flanker is happy to be back in the Championship hunt: “Obviously, getting back playing for Leicester was massive, and my 100th game last game was huge. Then to get the call to come back into camp was brilliant. The boys here have done exceptionally well the last three games and are really building towards this campaign, so to get back involved with that is brilliant.
“It's nice to be back in amongst the boys. I didn’t expect to get the call-up but to be able to sit on the bench this weekend is kind of drawing a line underneath that chapter of my life and I can hopefully press on and start to get some form back.”
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Croft rejoins a confident and settled squad that has progressed exponentially under Lancaster, something the back rower is keenly aware of: “I think they’ve taken massive strides. They had a tough test away over in South Africa and a lot of learning over there, then obviously in the autumn, there was the great result against New Zealand.
“With the way they’re going in the Six Nations so far, they’re really building their identity in world rugby. They’re going forward, with a try-scoring defence. It’s an impressive thing to watch and great to be back involved with it.”
“Over the past two days there’s been a lot of learning and getting my head down but the boys make it very easy, with DC [Danny Care] at 9 and Floody [Toby Flood] at 10, talking you through the shapes and moves. It’s an easy environment to come back in to when you‘ve got guys like that talking you through it.”
Having proved his match fitness by playing back-to-back games for Leicester, Croft is ready to test himself on the international stage again.
“In terms of getting match fitness it’s frustrating not playing game after game, so backing up a game was big for me. Obviously the body was a bit sore but it’s recovering fairly quickly now and it’s just nice to be involved with the boys again.”