Tom Croft

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Tom Croft
Tom Croft 2012.jpg
Birth nameThomas Richard Croft
Date of birth (1985-11-07) 7 November 1985 (age 33)
Place of birthBasingstoke, England
Height1.98 m (6 ft 6 in)
Weight110 kg (17 st 5 lb; 243 lb)[1]
SchoolPark House School
Oakham School
Rugby union career
Position(s) Flanker, Lock
Current team Leicester Tigers
Youth Career
  Newbury RFC
Senior career
Years Team Apps (Points)
2005–2017 Leicester Tigers 173 (135)
Correct as of 16 November 2017
National team(s)
Years Team Apps (Points)
2007
2008–2015
2009, 2013
England Saxons
England
British and Irish Lions

400
50

(20)
(10)
Correct as of 1 March 2015
National sevens team(s)
Years Team Comps
2006 England 7s

Tom Croft (born 7 November 1985) is a retired rugby union player. He played 173 games for Leicester Tigers between 2005–17 winning four Premiership Rugby titles, played 40 times for England between 2008–2015, was part of the squad for the 2011 Rugby World Cup, and was a tourist with the British and Irish Lions in 2009 to South Africa and 2013 to Australia.[2]

Background[edit]

Born 7 November 1985 in Basingstoke, England, Croft went to Oakham School in Rutland where he was in the same year as England cricketer Stuart Broad.[3]

Playing style[edit]

Croft's best position was blindside flanker, he was known for his line-out agility[4] and unusual speed for a forward;[5] one of the quickest players in the Tigers squad[6] his coach Aaron Mauger described him as the " fastest loose forward he had ever seen".[7]

After scoring two tries against his Harlequins side in 2008 Dean Richards described Croft as an "outstanding talent" who "has everything",[8] Martin Corry said England have never had a player blessed with Croft's abundant abilities.[9]

Club career[edit]

His senior debut for Leicester Tigers came against Gloucester in the 2005–06 season, a week after he turned 20. In the following season, which included a Premiership title and the Anglo-Welsh Cup for the Tigers, he made 16 appearances.

2008–09 could be considered Croft's breakthrough season, in which he established himself both in the club side and on the international scene. He was man-of-the-match in the Heineken Cup semi-final against Cardiff Blues, which resulted in a historic sudden death kicking competition.[10] The shoot-out ended before Croft's turn came up as Jordan Crane made the winning kick.[11] Although the Tigers fell at the final hurdle of the Heineken Cup, they won the 2008–09 Guinness Premiership. Croft played lock in both finals, as a result of injury to teammate Louis Deacon.

The following season didn't quite match up to the previous for Croft, due in no small part to the two knee injuries he sustained, one after the other in the middle of the season. He worked his way back successfully, however, and featured in another Premiership final victory, this time at blindside flanker.[12]

He captained the Tigers for the first time on 3 October 2010, against Saracens.[13]

Croft suffered two major injuries whilst on club duty. First, in an April 2012 Premiership match against Harlequins Croft mistimed tackle on Nick Easter and suffered a triple fracture of his C6 vertebra,[14] a specialist described the injury "as close as you can to being paralysed”,[5] He returned to the Tigers after 8 months injured in January 2013 against Worcester.[14]

Then, in the 2013–14 Premiership opener against Worcester in September, he suffered a season-ending cruciate ligament injury.[15]

In November 2017, Croft announced his immediate retirement from rugby following a new neck injury and consulting a specialist.[16] His final appearance was on 11 March 2017 against Saracens in the semi final of the Anglo-Welsh Cup, Croft was a substitute as Leicester won 32-10.[17]

International career[edit]

Croft was called up to the England squad for the 2008 Six Nations Championship.[18][19] He had already been selected for the England Saxons and England Sevens sides.[20]

He gained his first England cap in the 2008 Six Nations win against France in Paris.[21] He was then named in Martin Johnson's squad on 1 June 2008. He gained starting places in the squad at blindside flanker for three games against the Pacific Islanders, Australia and South Africa, before being named on the bench against New Zealand. Croft was awarded man of the match when England defeated France 34–10 at Twickenham in the 2009 Six Nations Championship.

On 20 May 2009, he was called up to the squad by coach Ian McGeechan for the Lions 2009 tour of South Africa as a replacement for the banned Alan Quinlan.[22]

He then subsequently started the first two tests against South Africa, and came off the bench in the 3rd test. He scored two tries in the first test defeat – becoming the first Lions forward to score twice against the Springboks.

In November 2009, Croft was nominated for the IRB Player of the Year for 2009,[23] though the award went to Richie McCaw. Despite making the shortlist and having started the first two games of the Autumn Internationals, Croft found himself demoted to the bench for the third test, against New Zealand.[24] Injury to Joe Worsley saw him take the field within the first five minutes, however.

Croft's second knee injury in the 2009–10 season saw him miss out on the 2010 Six Nations entirely,[25] though he regained his starting place from James Haskell for the Australian summer tour.[26] He switched to openside flanker to cover injured captain Lewis Moody halfway through the second half of the first Test, which England lost 27–17.[27] The second Test saw England beat Australia 20–21.[28] This was only the third time that England had managed to beat Australia in Australia.

He took part in the 2010 Autumn Internationals, starting in both the loss to New Zealand[29] and the win against Australia, the latter cited by many to have been the best England performance for years.[30] In 2011 he was part of the England team that came within a game of a grand slam. 2012 saw Croft play in every single game of that year's Six Nations, His form continued to improve throughout the Championship and he played a starring role in the game against France which saw him score a wonderful try after a searing burst of pace. The last game against Ireland, saw him make a 50-yard burst which almost brought about a try. Croft was ruled out of the rest of Leicester's season after a neck injury. His first try for England came as a replacement for James Haskell against Samoa.[31]

In April 2013, he was selected for the 2013 British and Irish Lions tour to Australia. He started the first test in a 23–21 win over Australia and came off the bench in the 16–15 second test defeat.[32]

He made his international return two years later for England during the 2015 Six Nations against Italy and Ireland, his last cap to date.[33]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Inside Rugby". Leicester Mercury. 10 September 2014.
  2. ^ "ESPNscrum profile". ESPNscrum. Retrieved 6 October 2017.
  3. ^ Tozer, Malcolm, ed. (2012). Physical Education and Sport in Independent Schools. John Catt Educational Ltd. p. 293. ISBN 9781908095442.
  4. ^ "Tom Croft can rule the line-out". BBC. 5 November 2010. Retrieved 16 November 2017.
  5. ^ a b "Leicester stalwart Tom Croft battle scarred but happy to be in one piece". The Observer. 9 April 2016. Retrieved 16 November 2017.
  6. ^ "Six Nations player watch – Tom Croft". BBC. 7 January 2008. Retrieved 9 January 2008.
  7. ^ "Tom Croft interview: 'I know I can get back to my prime again'". The Independent. 22 January 2016. Retrieved 16 November 2017.
  8. ^ "Harlequins 13-42 Leicester". BBC. 6 January 2008. Retrieved 16 November 2017.
  9. ^ "Crafty Croft ready for step up". BBC. 22 January 2008. Retrieved 25 January 2008.
  10. ^ Cleary, Mick (3 May 2009). "Leicester reach Heineken Cup final". London: Daily Telegraph.
  11. ^ "I enjoyed pressure kick – Crane". BBC Sport. 3 May 2009.
  12. ^ Foy, Chris (31 May 2010). "Tigers pounce to give Lewis Moody a victorious send off". London: Daily Mail.
  13. ^ "Tom Croft to lead out Leicester Tigers". Leicester Tigers website. 1 October 2010.
  14. ^ a b "Tom Croft revisits horror of broken neck but is returning without fear". The Guardian. 8 January 2013. Retrieved 16 November 2017.
  15. ^ "Tom Croft ruled out for the season". ESPN Scrum. 11 September 2013. Retrieved 11 September 2013.
  16. ^ Sherard, Gary (16 November 2017). "Croft announces his rugby retirement". LeicesterTigers.com. Retrieved 16 November 2017.
  17. ^ "Tom Croft: Leicester Tigers forward announces retirement". 16 November 2017. Retrieved 16 November 2017.
  18. ^ "Vainikolo named in England squad". BBC. 9 January 2008. Retrieved 9 January 2008.
  19. ^ "Vainikolo – named in England squad". Sportinglife. 9 January 2008. Retrieved 9 January 2008.
  20. ^ "England sevens squad is unveiled". BBC. 4 September 2006. Retrieved 9 January 2008.
  21. ^ "Wigglesworth handed England call". BBC. 19 February 2008. Retrieved 19 February 2008.
  22. ^ "Croft given Quinlan's Lions spot". BBC Sport. 20 May 2009. Retrieved 20 May 2009.
  23. ^ "O'Driscoll leads IRB nominations". BBC Sport. 16 November 2009. Retrieved 16 November 2009.
  24. ^ "Tom Croft has done nothing wrong, says England coach Martin Johnson". Leicester Mercury. 19 November 2009. Retrieved 16 November 2009.
  25. ^ "Tom Croft ruled out of England opening fixtures". London: Daily Telegraph. 17 January 2010.
  26. ^ Cleary, Mick (11 June 2010). "Australia v England: Martin Johnson's side have a chance to silence the doubters". London: Daily Telegraph.
  27. ^ "Australia 27–17 England". BBC Sport. 12 June 2010.
  28. ^ "Australia 20–21 England". BBC Sport. 19 June 2010.
  29. ^ "England 16–26 New Zealand". BBC Sport. 6 November 2010.
  30. ^ "England 35–18 Australia". BBC Sport. 13 November 2010.
  31. ^ "England 26–13 Samoa". BBC Sport. 20 November 2010.
  32. ^ "Jonny Wilkinson out but Sam Warburton is captain". BBC Sport. 30 April 2013. Retrieved 1 May 2013.
  33. ^ "Croft comes on for Haskell on return to internationals". 14 February 2015. Retrieved 14 February 2015.

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