|Weight||105kg (16st 7lb)|
Athleticism is the name of Tom Croft’s game and his status as a record-breaker four years ago was bolted on to his 13 England caps out of a possible 14 dating back to his debut against France in February 2008. Four seasons on, he crowned a high-octane performance against les Bleus with a stunning try, his fourth for England, when he sliced a path between Aurélien Rougerie and Imanol Harinordoquy along the way to a 24-22 win at Stade de France in March last year.
That April, he suffered a neck injury that ruled him out of the summer tour to South Africa and he needed to wear a neck brace for eight weeks. Eight months later, Tom returned against Worcester Warriors and bridged a year’s gap between Tests when playing off the bench against Italy. He then started against Wales in Cardiff but missed the 2013 QBE Internationals following surgery to repair damage to an anterior cruciate knee ligament.
Going back, he had been omitted from the 2009 British & Irish Lions squad in South Africa but was not only called on as a pre-tour replacement for the suspended Alan Quinlan but in the initial Test at Durban also became the first forward in Lions history to score two tries against the Springboks. He embarked on his second tour with the squad to Australia this year and played at No. 6 in the side that achieved a 23-21 victory in the first Test at Brisbane in late June before figuring off the bench in Melbourne the following week.
Tom’s maiden try for England was in his 21st match, against Samoa in November 2010. The following week, he fractured his right shoulder blade in the South Africa game. Surgery was not needed but he returned to Leicester’s starting line-up against Sale Sharks at the end of February 2011. The following month he scored his second Test try on his return to the squad against Scotland at Twickenham and his third against Romania in the RWC crowned a touchline dash.
His rugby baptism was at the age of 11 when he joined Newbury and he remained with club, then in National One, for five years before switching to the Leicester Tigers Academy.
He made his debut against Gloucester only a week after his 20th birthday in November 2005 and so his senior career was born. Tom was 24 on the day when England launched their 2009 Investec Challenge Series against Australia and he shared in the win over Ireland in Dublin in August 2011, together with those over Argentina, Georgia, Romania and Scotland in subsequent RWC. He was among five England forwards to figure in all five matches in the tournament, Dan Cole, James Haskell, Tom Palmer and Steve Thompson being the others.
Tom had already excelled for England Schools, was man of the match against Wales in the opening game in the 2006 U21 Six Nations Championship and was among the prime performers in the side that won the Grand Slam that year.
He became a member of the England Sevens squad in 2006-07 and his speed brought the try that gave England Saxons a 17-13 triumph over New Zealand Maori in the 2007 Churchill Cup final at Twickenham. A medial ligament injury to his left knee ruled him out of the 2010 RBS 6 Nations Championship and prompted his absence for seven weeks.
Raised in Kingsclere and schooled at Park House in Newbury and at Oakham, he was reputedly the quickest player after Tom Varndell in the 2008-09 Tigers squad and was man of the match in England’s 34-10 win over France at Twickenham in March 2009.
He attributes some of his suppleness to being a member of the West Berkshire Youth Dance Group between the ages of 12 and 16 and to studying contemporary, modern and street dancing. He says: “It has definitely enabled me to become more agile, especially in the air and has helped in the line out and jumping for the ball. Dancing also improves coordination and fitness.”
England: 20 points – 4T Lions: 10 points – 2T
England: 2008 F(R), S, I, NZ(2R), PI, A, SA(R), NZ(R) 2009 It (R), W(R), I(R), F, S, A, Arg, NZ(R) 2010 A(1,2), NZ, A, Sam(R), SA 2011 S(R), I (R), W, I World Cup - Arg, G (R), R, S, F 2012 S, It, W, F, I 2013 It(R), W
Lions: 2009 SA(1,2,3R) 2013 A(1, 2R)
Last updated: November 19, 2013