- Croft says England just focusing on getting a win against Wales
- Italy performance no reason to panic, says back row
Flanker Tom Croft insists that England’s lacklustre performance against Italy will not be a cause for panic this week ahead of their Grand Slam clash with Wales on Saturday.
Head Coach Stuart Lancaster described the team’s 18-11 win over the Azzurri as their least clinical performance so far in the tournament, but having withstood Italy’s second-half surge England are now on course for their first Grand Slam since 2003 after winning their first four matches.
“There is a little bit of frustration,” said Croft in the immediate aftermath. “We started the game well and the boys got us into a good place, creating chances, but unfortunately we didn’t convert them into tries.
“But you can’t lose the perspective that the Italians have improved immensely over the last couple of years. We did make mistakes in areas of the game but the Italians did capitalise and they really put us to the cosh. First and foremost we got the win and we are now four from four. We have got a few things to fix up and we need to recover with a short week coming up but it’s not panic stations but we have got things to work out.”
Croft played just under half an hour against Italy after coming on as a replacement for James Haskell. It was his first appearance in an England shirt since last year’s Six Nations, having been sidelined for eight months after breaking his neck last April while playing for Leicester Tigers against Harlequins.
The 27-year-old had a solid game in what was an arm-wrestle of a match for England. Croft says that although the clinical finishing was lacking, England were still able to put pressure on their opposition.
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“We know our shapes and our plans are actually working and we are manipulating defences into where we need them to be. We can talk about final passes and creating them into tries during the week, that’s not a hard thing. It’s not about flogging the boys on the pitch this week, it’s about making sure the boys are as fresh has possible going into the game against Wales.
“It’s going to be a huge occasion and we have learnt from mistakes we have made in previous years in these situations. If we can we will put the Grand Slam and Triple Crown to one side and focus on it as a game and make sure we improve on today’s performance.”
Put simply, a win in Cardiff will secure England the Grand Slam but a loss by six points or fewer would also seal the title. If Stuart Lancaster’s side lose by seven points or outscore Wales by three tries or more it would be the same outcome.
Despite the mathematical scenarios though, Croft says that the team will be looking to win the game at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday: “The boys will go into that game with the eye to win it. It’s not about losing within 7 or 14 points; it’s about winning the game and improving from today’s performance. That’s where this team needs to go - if we can put the side show to one side and focus on the performance, make sure we fix up and rest up this week then we will go into next week confident.”