Cockerill backs Croft for England return
March 2, 2013
Leicester's Tom Croft has won 39 England caps and three for the Lions © Getty Images
The flanker completed 80 minutes as he made his 100th appearance for the Tigers in the 48-10 win over Sale Sharks at Welford Road. He injured his neck towards the end of last season and only returned to action against Worcester Warriors on January 2.
In the meantime he missed the summer tour to South Africa, the autumn internationals and all three of England's Six Nations matches so far. Having been left out of the training squad for the match with Italy, it is unlikely that he will add to his 39 England caps in this year's Championship.
"He is a good enough player to go and play. He has played two full games now and if England needed him I'm sure he would be ready to go and do a job," Cockerill said. "Tom's attitude has been outstanding and he has used the time when he has not been playing to deal with his contact work and his conditioning."
Croft played in all three Tests on the 2009 Lions tour to South Africa, but he admitted earlier in the season that he was more likely to be touring with England to Argentina in the summer, rather than with the Lions to Australia.
Cockerill agreed that he is unlikely to tour with the Lions, though he knows there is still a small window of opportunity for a player of Croft's quality.
"If we keep ourselves in the play-off mix and we go to Toulon (in the Heineken Cup) and Tom is outstanding in that company, there is an opportunity for him to go on the Lions tour," Cockerill said. "I'd have no hesitation in saying that Tom is ready to go and play a Test match next week. He has worked really hard and been patient and we are now getting the rewards."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Huw Richards profiles French forward Walter Spanghero, a man who even rugby's hard men thought was a tough nut
"To be part of the Commonwealth Games, I'd wear anything. I'd wear a clown suit." Tom Hamilton talks to Scotland's Sean Lamont
Scrum Sevens looks back at how rugby has fared in both the early Olympics and the past four Commonwealth Games
"Cheika's been phenomenal. He gives you an incredible level of mental strength." Tom Hamilton talks to Waratahs star Jacques Potgieter