Croft: I am back to my best
March 12, 2012
England flanker Tom Croft believes he his back to his best after putting in a storming performance against France akin to his starring role during the 2009 British & Irish Lions tour to South Africa.
The Leicester flanker scored the decisive try in the closing stages to cap the kind of commanding all-round display he has been striving for with England for three years. Croft dominated the lineout - winning England clean ball and disrupting the French set-piece - and he was everywhere in another character-filled defensive effort.
"Potentially this was my best game since the Lions," Croft said. "It was probably one of the most enjoyable I've had in an England shirt.
"It's about bringing back that form I had with the Lions but also about going past it and bringing different aspects to my game."
England surged into a healthy 14-3 lead with tries from Manu Tuilagi and Ben Foden but, with 10 minutes remaining, Les Bleus had closed to within two points at 17-15. Stuart Lancaster's men had to respond and they did so through Croft, who accelerated between Aurelien Rougerie and Imanol Harinordoquy before rounding full-back Clement Poitrenaud.
Foden was screaming for the ball on the outside but Croft backed his pace. "When I went through I was thinking 'maybe I should pass it'. If I had been tackled it would have been a complete disaster," Croft said. "But then I just thought I'd give it a go. The backs score enough tries. The forwards deserve a couple every now and then.
"It was probably the best try of my England career - the others came from close range against Samoa and Scotland. It was nice to open the legs and have a gallop in. It has come off the back of a huge team performance up to that point. We got the ball, we pulled them wide, and we had a go."
Tuilagi scored the first with a thundering run into the corner after a big tackle in midfield from Chris Ashton had forced the ball loose. Number eight Ben Morgan then beat two defenders on a rampaging run before fending off Harinordoquy and slipping a deft offload to Foden, who dragged Vincent Clerc with him over the line for England's second try.
"We've spoken about how this team can attack and we keep showing glimpses of it. It's coming together and three tries today is backing up what we've been talking about the last six weeks," Croft said. "They [the coaches] give us free rein. Our attacking shape is fairly simple and it's about playing what you see."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Huw Richards assesses where Wales are after a mixed Six Nations, with front row seats still very much available for the World Cup
John Mitchell lapped up the action on 'Sensational Saturday' - but warns not to expect a repeat come Rugby World Cup time later this year
Craig Dowd warns England, Ireland and Wales they should play to their strengths rather than those of the All Blacks and the Wallabies
Tom Hamilton runs the rule over just where the six countries stand ahead of the global gathering in September