Croft sets sights on Grand Slam glory
March 14, 2011
Croft celebrated his return to the international stage with a crucial try against the Scots © Getty Images
England flanker Tom Croft has set his sights on Grand Slam glory after making a try-scoring return to the international stage.
The Leicester Tigers blindside came off the bench to score the only try in England's hard-fought 22-16 victory over Scotland that leaves them one win from the Six Nations title and the Grand Slam with Ireland awaiting in Dublin on Saturday.
Croft is relishing the opportunity after finally recovering from the fractured shoulder which kept him out of England's victories over Wales, Italy and France. "When you see the back row playing well you wonder where you fit back in the mix," Croft said. "It was great to be back involved with a squad that is going well and hopefully we can finish the job off now. We are in a good place, four from four and a chance of a Grand Slam. We need to be focused and not let the whole event get on top of us."
England's points difference is so much better than nearest rivals Wales they should be crowned Six Nations champions even if they lose in Dublin. Ireland are out of the title race after their controversial defeat to Wales, who are mathematically the only team who can catch England. "The Irish will be very dangerous with that Triple Crown gone," Croft said. "They will want to spoil our party."
Croft's try should have sealed England the win but Scotland battled to the last and set up a tense finish with an opportunistic try from Max Evans. "We knew it would be a battle and we had to wear them down for the full 80 minutes," Croft said. "I think we know it wasn't the performance we had been hoping for. "We made quite a few mistakes and there are areas we can improve in the week going into Ireland but we take the win."
Croft insists there is no better man than Johnson for England to have in the trenches this week to ensure their preparations are perfect. "It will be an emotionally-charged day in Ireland. We know it is a Grand Slam game but we have to got to keep our heads and not get too overexcited," Croft said.
"Martin Johnson's experience will be absolutely huge. He knows the emotions we will be feeling this week leading up to the game, he knows he will need to step in and calm the boys down now and again. But in the changing room before the game he will be just as bad as the rest of the players because he still has that playing instinct at heart and the boys like to see him show that emotion.
"He gets as excited as a player does. The raw emotion he had when he was playing, he brings that into the changing room with the things he says. It is great to see the manager have the same sort of emotions leading up to such a great game."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
The latest Week in Pictures brings you a selection of the best snaps from around the rugby world with scantily clad ladies, O'Driscoll and snow all featuring
"If I miss the first kick of the match, it shouldn't have any impact on the second. They are different entities." Tom Hamilton talks to Northampton Saints' Stephen Myler
It's time for those running Welsh rugby to stop trying to prevent its players heading to France and to start planning a future without them, writes Martin Williamson
Paul Eddison explains how the French sold English clubs down the river and why their domestic game will go from strength to strength