Croft nearing Tigers comeback
February 17, 2011
Tom Croft has been out since November with a shoulder injury © Getty Images
Tom Croft could be set to bolster England's Six Nations challenge after it was confirmed that the flanker is in line for a recall to the Leicester squad to face Wasps at Welford Road on Saturday.
The 25-year-old has been out of action since breaking his shoulder in England's November loss to South Africa at Twickenham and suffered further frustration when his lay-off was extended due to nerve damage.
In his absence England have turned to Northampton's Tom Wood in the No.6 jersey while Stade Francais' James Haskell has filled the void left at openside by an injury to skipper Lewis Moody.
Croft's return will be a major fillip to the England camp as they prepare for a tough run-in to a possible Six Nations Grand Slam, beginning against France on February 26, but Tigers boss Richard Cockerill has sounded a note of caution - insisting that he will not rush the British & Irish Lion back.
"There is a good chance that he will be in the 23," Cockerill told The Leicester Mercury. "There are a couple of things for him to get through contact-wise but it is looking pretty positive.
"He has had a nerve issue which, historically, are quite slow to heal. He was an outside chance for last week but he wasn't quite right. We are hoping that he will come through all of the rugby stuff before he can play.
"It is looking pretty good and, if we can get him back in the mix, that would be helpful. If I had been impatient, I would have played him last weekend. If he is 100% right this weekend, he will play. If he isn't fit, he won't."
Cockerill believes that Croft has a battle on his hands to regain a place in the England side and praised the impact made by Wood, who made his Test bow in the Championship opener against Wales in Cardiff.
"Tom is such an important player to us, never mind England," he said. "He is world-class and I would sacrifice him this week if it meant having him available for the run-in to the end of the season.
"When Tom has proved his fitness with us and got some game-time under his belt, I am sure England will look at him.But Tom Wood has done pretty well in his absence, James Haskell did okay and Lewis Moody will play this weekend for Bath and prove his fitness. If England keep winning, it will be difficult to change a winning side."
Meanwhile, Leeds flanker Hendre Fourie and Sale loose-head Andrew Sheridan are among 17 players released from the England squad for domestic action this weekend. Fly-half Jonny Wilkinson returned to Toulon earlier in the week prior to their Top 14 clash with Agen.
Players released: Nick Abendanon (Bath), Matt Banahan (Bath), Danny Care (Harlequins), George Chuter (Leicester Tigers), Alex Corbisiero (London Irish), Paul Doran-Jones (Gloucester), Phil Dowson (Northampton Saints), Riki Flutey (Wasps), Hendre Fourie (Leeds Carnegie), Charlie Hodgson (Sale Sharks), Tim Payne (Wasps), Joe Simpson (Wasps), Andrew Sheridan (Sale Sharks), George Skivington (Leicester Tigers), Steve Thompson (Leeds Carnegie), David Wilson (Bath), Joe Worsley (Wasps)
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