The news broke yesterday that Leicester’s Tom Croft had been recalled to the England squad following a lengthy spell on the sidelines. It is great news for a man who suffered a severe neck injury towards the end of last season, and has not represented his country since the Six Nations last year. Making his return in January, Tigers head coach Richard Cockerill was determined not to rush him back into things and he has been used sparingly since.
Whilst his form has been good (or as good as it can be in five games), is it too soon for him to be considered for an international recall? His performance against Sale would certainly suggest he is ready, but the strains of international rugby are another step-up and the physical challenge Italy pose would be a huge test of if that is accurate.
Another question to consider is how would it affect the balance of the back-row? And how would he fit in? Chris Robshaw and Tom Wood have built an outstanding relationship and compliment each other superbly – but it could be argued that each player’s good form would not have been possible had the other not been on the pitch. If neither of them can be dropped (Robshaw obviously won’t be, Wood can be extremely aggrieved if he is), is a Croft-Robshaw-Wood the best option, with Croft on the blindside flank and Wood at no.8? Is that back-row too lightweight, perhaps lacking a ball-carrier in the mould of Haskell or Morgan?
Lancaster won’t rush him, and he is highly unlikely to start at the weekend. However, all his comments in the press point towards Croft’s inclusion in the squad.
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