Croft getting excited

Tom Croft reckons the 2013 British & Irish Lions are ahead of the game when it comes to comparing their progress a week ahead of the first Test to the team in which he played in South Africa four years ago. [more]

Croft getting excited

Tom Croft reckons the 2013 British & Irish Lions are ahead of the game when it comes to comparing their progress a week ahead of the first Test to the team in which he played in South Africa four years ago.

The Leicester Tigers and England flanker became the first Lions forward to score two tries in a Test since John Nelson back in 1950 when he touched down twice on his debut in the first Test in Durban in 2009.

He went from a rookie reserve, who only made the initial squad when Alan Quinlan was ruled it through suspension on the day of the squad announcement, to Test sensation in the space of a few weeks. Now he wants more Test action against the Qantas Wallabies – and a series win.

“Because you’ve had a taste of it before, you kind of want to be in it again. That’s just a natural thing to feel,” said Croft after another superb, try scoring performance against the HSBC Waratahs.

“Boys like Alun Wyn Jones, who I thought was absolutely superb against the Waratahs, has really put his hand up for selection. He obviously was there in ’09 and wants to be there again this time.

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“That’s the same for all the boys that played back then, although all the boys who are new into this side, they are mad for that Test spot as well. It would be an absolutely massive achievement.

“It would be the same answer for any player asked that question – to make the first Test side is an absolutely huge achievement. You want to have the first chance at having a go at the Aussies and to be a Test-cap Lion.

“The guys playing here are technically classed as tourists. You want to be a Test-cap Lion and that’s the goal for every player who has come on this tour. Competition is high, but again that’s something for the coaches to decide.

“There’s such huge competition in the back row that it definitely brings out the best in you. It’s the same all over the squad, but specifically in the back row.

“I feel good to be playing alongside some of the best back rowers in the world. There’s a headache in selection that’s down to Gats and down to Wig – they will sit down and decide which way they want to go, but it’s just a pleasure to play alongside these boys.

“Whenever you take the pitch you want to play to your full potential – there’s that need to succeed. The fact there’s such stiff competition, such class throughout the squad in terms of the back row, maybe it brings the best out in you, although obviously there are a few things I can work on.”

The back row combination against the Waratahs – Croft at No 6, Warburton at No 7 and Heaslip at No 8 – was the fifth different trio used on tour by Gatland. For three players who had never played together before they blended superbly well and put in a great shift.

The five try, 47-17 victory over the Sydney Super Rugby franchise also kept the Lions’ unbeaten record going and gave them a huge boost a week before the opening Test in Brisbane.

“I think we’re ahead of where we were this time in 2009, in some areas. Obviously there’s still stuff we can work on and we’ll fix up come Monday morning,” said Croft.

“It’s a shame to see a few boys limping off again, like Jamie Roberts, but I’m sure he’ll be fine. But this side is in a very good place.

“It’s building in the right direction. We’re not going to get ahead of ourselves, especially with a midweek game against the Brumbies coming up, but the excitement is building in camp – it’s going to be something special.

"Without giving away the full play-book, this team is building. We are trying different things in each game, to see how it works, to see how combinations work.

“Obviously there will be new things that are brought into the Test week when we come into it and then we’ll see where we go from there. We want to peaking for the first Test, build on from that and make sure, as we have always been talking about, the bar is being raised.

“We have to make sure that come Test week it continues to be raised again and again because the Wallabies will be absolutely mad for it after they’ve watched us over the last couple of weeks.

“They’ve been watching how we are playing and which players to target and I’m sure it will be exceptionally tough – another notch up from where we’ve played in the last couple of games.”
 

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