Thomas Richard CROFT
England Caps: 38 (22-0-16)
England Points: 20 (4t)
England Debut: v France* 2008
British & Irish Lions: 2009 (SA) Tests: 3 (1-0-2)
Lions Debut: 03/06/2009 v Golden Lions
Test Record v Australia: 5 (2-0-3)
Tom Croft’s selection for the British & Irish Lions owes as much to his character and determination as it does to the athleticism that has helped him stand out for the past six years. In April 2012, he feared his career was over after fracturing vertebrae in three places in helping Leicester Tigers to a crucial win over Harlequins.
He was told by his specialist that he had come as close as was possible to being paralysed yet following surgery to insert a metal plate and four screws into his neck, he has made a remarkable return to top flight rugby.
After taking his first step back against Worcester Warriors, the blindside flanker appeared for England a year since his previous cap, off the bench against Italy in this year’s RBS 6 Nations, before starting against Wales in Cardiff.
This will be his second Lions tour despite initially being omitted from 2009 squad for South Africa.
Not only was he called upon to replace the suspended Alan Quinlan before the tour party departed, but scored a try on his debut against the Golden Lions and then became the first forward in Lions’ history to score two tries against the Springboks during the first Test in Durban.
In contrast, it had taken 21 appearances since making his Test debut against France in 2008 before scoring his maiden try for England. That was against Samoa in November 2010, though the following week, he fractured his right shoulder blade against South Africa.
He claimed his second try on his return the following February, against Scotland, his third against Romania in the 2011 Rugby World Cup, in which he started all five games, and his fourth set up a famous win over France in Paris last year.
Fast and agile, Croft took his first rugby steps with Newbury before switching to the Leicester Tigers Academy and excelled for England Schools and the U21 side that won the Grand Slam in 2006.
He became a member of the England Sevens’ squad the following year and scored a try in the 17-13 triumph over New Zealand Maori in the 2007 Churchill Cup final at Twickenham.