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Six Nations
Croft given injury all-clear
ESPN Staff
February 27, 2013
Leicester's Tom Croft evades Worcester's Aleki Lutui, Worcester Warriors v Leicester Tigers, Aviva Premiership, Sixways, Worcester, England, January 4, 2013
Tom Croft is back to full fitness © PA Photos
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Leicester Tigers boss Richard Cockerill has given flanker Tom Croft a clean bill of health but he is unlikely to turn out for England during the current Six Nations.

Croft was omitted from England's training squad ahead of their match with Italy on March 10 and it looks likely that he will remain with Leicester for the rest of the championship. Croft suffered a serious neck injury towards the end of last season and only made his playing comeback for the Tigers against Worcester on January 4.

At the time Tigers boss Cockerill emphasised the need to stagger Croft's comeback with the Six Nations looming. The England staff, it seems, agreed with the Leicester coach and Croft has not been in the international mix during the current competition. But while he has not been playing Test rugby, he has shone for Leicester.

He put in a memorable performance against Saracens at the weekend and Cockerill says that he is now back to full fitness. "Tom is now ready to play consecutive weeks for us," Cockerill told the Leicester Mercury. "He has metal work in his neck to hold everything together while it heals.

"What you don't want is the screws to be working loose and that's why he was only playing every other week, to control the amount of impact and vibration going through him. He's been doing that for two months and we have had no adverse reaction to that. He has looked more and more comfortable as he has played every week.

"He was scanned on Monday and his X-ray has been sent to the specialist, who is happy that it has healed enough. It will take months for it to be completely healed so we will still manage him, but Tom was looking good at the weekend and I am pleased for him, because it was a serious injury."

The Tigers will not have Toby Flood available for the weekend's match against Sale as England have opted to retain the fly-half due to doubts over Owen Farrell's fitness. They have also opted to keep Tom Youngs in the squad but released Northampton's Dylan Hartley for club duty. That decision seems to suggest that Youngs is likely to start against Italy and Cockerill subscribes to this.

"On balance between Tom and Dylan, Tom is probably on better form," Cockerill told the Daily Mail. "If England want him to come through as a world-class hooker then he needs to be getting 20-30 caps under his belt before the World Cup comes around. For me he's probably the first-choice hooker in England at the moment.

"Every Test player needs a little bit of luck to get their breakthrough. We (Leicester) played Tom to develop him even when he was probably not quite ready, but he got over that hump and has come through."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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