Croft and Tuilagi ready to return
December 7, 2011
Tom Croft has been labelled a potential future England captain © Getty Images
England duo Tom Croft and Manu Tuilagi are set to return for the Tigers against Clermont Auvergne on Saturday.
Clermont are currently riding high in the Top 14 just three points behind Toulouse but lost their opening clash of the Heineken Cup to Ulster. Tigers, meanwhile, are two from two and eyeing that much coveted quarter-final spot. Tuilagi has missed seven weeks with a broken cheekbone while Croft missed the fiery East Midlands derby. And while the Tigers have endured a fractured start to the season - predominantly due to absent personnel - boss Richard Cockerill is now facing a selection headache.
"Manu should be fit. He has had the all-clear from the specialist so that is good news and Tom Croft should be fit as well," Cockerill told the Leicester Mercury. "Having Manu back gives us some good options in the centres with Billy Twelvetrees and Matt Smith in there.
"With regards to who should start and who should go on - well, it's a great headache to have. I have spent most of the year trying to find two centres. This weekend, I will have three. Wow! There are enough games left this season for everyone to play their part but, with Manu fit and available, the likelihood is that he is going to play because he is pretty good, isn't he?"
And the Tigers now face the sizeable ask of going to Clermont Auvergne and trying to break the French side's unbeaten home run which runs back to November 2009. "They have a huge budget and lots of world-class players in the squad," Cockerill said. "Other sides have 15 of them. They have 35.
"But we will go there to try to win. It's the only way to do it and, if we do, it puts us in pole position in the pool. There is no point in trying for a losing bonus point. We are going there for four points and we will give it our best shot.
"There will be lots of noise and you just have to embrace it. There is not much in Clermont apart from industry so it will be a full house.
"It's a huge challenge but I have no doubt that, if we get it right, we can go there and win. They are second in the French championship, they have the best attack and the second-best defence. But why not go there and enjoy the battle and give it a crack?"
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
The rolling maul is becoming an increasingly potent attacking weapon. Conor O'Shea looks at the difficulties of stopping it
The news of James Horwill, Adam Ashley-Cooper and Dan Carter's respective transfers will open the floodgates, writes Tom Hamilton
Kiwi coaches can be found far and wide across the globe, and Murray Mexted believes the All Blacks benefit every bit as much as their rivals
Clermont, Toulon, player burnout, Sam Burgess and a farewell to Adams Park - Monday Maul looks back at the weekend's action