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.
The Scotland coach enters his first Six Nations with at least one familiar face to look to for inspiration - Joe Schmidt. He chats to Tom Hamilton
Italy coach Jacques Brunel spoke to ESPN ahead of his final season as Italy coach and tells of his desire to experiment and evolve
"There's no bull with me, I just tell it straight." Tom Hamilton talks to Warren Gatland in an exclusive interview
With the retirement of Adam Jones, Welsh rugby says goodbye to a great player and one of its biggest personalities too, writes Tom Hamilton