England v Italy, March 10
England add Tom Croft to squad
March 4, 2013
Tom Croft shone for Leicester on Saturday in what was his 100th match for the club © Getty Images
England have added Tom Croft to their squad ahead of Sunday's game with Italy but it looks likely that Owen Farrell will miss the clash.
Croft suffered a serious neck injury towards the end of last season and made his comeback in early January. At the time, Tigers boss Richard Cockerill said that he was unlikely to play any part in the Six Nations as they did not want to rush the flanker. England subscribed to this view and Croft is yet to turn out in this season's championship.
But since his first match back on January 4, he has played another four times for the Tigers and he put in an impressive performance against Sale on Saturday. After seeing him shine for the Tigers, Cockerill admitted that the 36-cap flanker was ready for international duty if required.
"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. With 15 minutes to go he was wanting a bit of oxygen but he works to the maximum all the time."
And Stuart Lancaster has decided to add Croft to their forward options ahead of the match with Italy. Croft last played for England during last season's Six Nations but he could get the nod at blindside against the Azzurri.
"The indications last week were that it might be a bit early for Tom to get involved in this Six Nations," said Lancaster. "But having played back to back games he has now had the all clear from the specialist and Leicester's and our medics. I also had a good chat with Richard Cockerill; he is happy with his form and we can clearly see he is playing well, but most importantly Tom feels he is ready - it is great to have him back in.
"We have competition in all places but the back row is very competitive and to have Tom available just adds to that so we are looking forward to seeing how he does this week. We are also bringing in Calum Clark as we want to keep supporting him and involved during his recovery (from a shoulder injury)."
England have also added Gloucester's Freddie Burns to the squad with Lancaster confirming that Farrell is still not fully match fit. He had previously been rated as having a 50-50 chance of being fit to play Italy, after suffering a quad injury against France, but it looks likely that he will now target England's potential Grand Slam decider against Wales for his comeback.
Lancaster and the medical staff are also monitoring Ben Morgan's fitness while Billy Vunipola is fit to play some part on Sunday. Saracens' Mouritz Botha and Sale's Henry Thomas have also been added to the squad.
England training squad for Italy:
Forwards: Mouritz Botha (Saracens), Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers), Alex Corbisiero (London Irish), Tom Croft (Leicester Tigers), Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints), James Haskell (London Wasps), Matt Kvesic (Worcester Warriors), Joe Launchbury (London Wasps), Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints), Joe Marler (Harlequins), Ben Morgan (Gloucester Rugby), Geoff Parling (Leicester Tigers), Chris Robshaw (Harlequins), Henry Thomas (Sale Sharks), Mako Vunipola (Saracens), Billy Vunipola (London Wasps), David Wilson (Bath Rugby), Thomas Waldrom (Leicester Tigers), Tom Wood (Northampton Saints), Tom Youngs (Leicester Tigers)
Backs: Chris Ashton (Saracens), Brad Barritt (Saracens), Mike Brown (Harlequins), Freddie Burns (Gloucester), Danny Care (Harlequins), Lee Dickson (Northampton Saints), Owen Farrell (Saracens), Toby Flood (Leicester Tigers), Ben Foden (Northampton Saints), Alex Goode (Saracens), David Strettle (Saracens), Joel Tomkins (Saracens), Manusamoa Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers), Billy Twelvetrees (Gloucester Rugby), Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers)
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