Croft: Lions form was not a fluke
February 22, 2012
Tom Croft is under pressure to perform for England © Getty Images
England flanker Tom Croft is adamant that his British & Irish Lions Test form was not a flash in the pan as he looks to get back to his best ahead of the clash with Wales on Saturday.
The 26-year-old was a late addition to Ian McGeechan's squad, called up after Munster's Alan Quinlan had been suspended, and he ended up playing an integral role in a titanic Test series. Croft scored two tries in the first Test as the Lions mounted a comeback against South Africa and he then produced a performance of even greater stature a week later in Pretoria.
The Leicester blindside mixed his pace - electric for a forward and something he puts down to dance classes as a child - with an effective close-quarter carrying game and a steely physical edge. But Croft's England contributions ever since have been compared with those Lions Test performances and, away from the lineout, not always favourably.
Stuart Lancaster confirmed as much by declaring one of his objectives as England's interim coach was to get Croft delivering "Lions-esque" performances. But Croft believes he can do more for England than just aim to reproduce those displays from three years ago . "That has been said a fair few times, in terms of getting back to the form I showed with the Lions," Croft said. "I was very happy with the way that tour went but it's not just about trying to recreate that, for me it's about moving on from that.
"I need to be getting round the corner in that carrying role, but also trying to integrate that into other parts - getting out into the wider channels, but also being as involved as possible at close quarters.
"I think it is impossible to recreate that Lions form exactly anyway. So I have to bring the best of that into my game, as well as everything else I am doing. I can't just end up being a one-dimensional player."
Croft will be up against a Welsh back-row trio in Dan Lydiate, his opposite man on the blindside, Sam Warburton and Toby Faletau who are not shy in grabbing a game by the scruff of the neck. That is something Croft, one of the most senior members of this new-look England side with 36 Test caps, has been criticised for not doing enough.
Asked ahead of England's Six Nations showdown with Wales whether he gets frustrated at the constant references to his Lions exploits, Croft paused. His eventual answer was "no" but everything about it screamed "yes".
"It's nice to be spoken about with the Lions. When people talk about that, it doesn't annoy me but I explain that I'm trying to be better than that," Croft said. "I never come off the field feeling completely satisfied. In the last couple of games I've come off thinking that I could have got my hands on the ball more.
"It's not about the structure, I have to make sure I am getting in the right positions to get my hands on the ball."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
With the deadline for World Cup ticket applications now over, Tom May outlines his hopes, gripes and wishes for next year's global gathering
Floundering Leicester, exquisite Exeter and two old England players tearing up trees - it's the Monday Maul
The latest Week in Pictures takes in the Rugby Championship and all the domestic action from the northern hemisphere
Chris Robshaw talks to Tom Hamilton about mental and physical preparation and coping with pressure ahead of the World Cup