- England hooker looks ahead to France and Canada clashes
- Emma Croker says tough schedule is ideal preparation ahead of big 2014
England hooker Emma Croker insists Gary Street’s squad has gained strength from adversity after a difficult 12 months.
England’s run in the Six Nations – which had seen them lift the trophy seven years in succession – came to an end when they finished third in this year’s tournament, before they suffered a series defeat to New Zealand and lost in the Nations Cup to Canada.
But the experienced hooker, who has 41 international caps to her name, is confident that those disappointments have galvanised the squad – something they are determined to prove against France and Canada this autumn.
First up is France at Twickenham this Saturday will be an ideal opportunity to avenge their 30-20 defeat in the Six Nations earlier this year.
“I think as a team we have learned a lot over the last 12 months,” she said. “The results did not necessarily go our way but I think we have come out of it as a stronger team – both as individuals and as a group.
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“We have a lot of experienced players back and we are a strong squad going forward. I think we are going to bring a lot of that into fixtures over the next couple of weeks.”
England take on Canada at the Twickenham Stoop in their second game this autumn on November 12. And Croker admits they have a tough schedule ahead of them, but a crucial one as they build towards next year’s World Cup.
“I think this will be one of the toughest,” she said. “We played New Zealand last year and that brought us forward for the year to come. They [France and Canada] are two of the best teams in the world at the moment.
“Canada have just been drawn in our group for the World Cup so that will add a bit of spice to that fixture. France are always tough opposition so it will be really good to gauge ourselves for going forward.
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“It is going to be a massive series. We have lost against both of these teams the last two times. Canada is going to be a massive marker to see where we are against them, ahead of playing them in August next year.
“Playing any of the top five or six teams in the world gives you a good position to see what you need to work on over the next eight months.”
Croker’s immediate sights, though, are set on this weekend and the opportunity to run out at Twickenham – following England’s QBE International against Argentina – in front of a home support.
“It is a great opportunity to come to the home of rugby at Twickenham,” she said. “We always love playing and we love playing with a crowd when people get behind us. “It has been a really positive camp so far. We have been here for a couple of days and it is really nice to be back together with a common goal, working towards the World Cup next summer.”