England have made the unexpected move of adding Tom Croft to their training squad for Italy, signalling the completion of the Leicester flanker’s return from a career-threatening neck injury.
Just a week after Stuart Lancaster stated that Croft would miss the final two games of the RBS 6 Nations, the head coach revealed he is available to start at Twickenham on Sunday and against Wales six days later. The 27-year-old led Leicester to victory against Sale on Saturday to negotiate back-to-back matches for the first time in his 295 minutes of rugby this season.
Last April he damaged his neck while tackling Harlequins back row Nick Easter.
Lancaster, who revealed that fly-half Toby Flood will start against Italy after Owen Farrell failed to recover from a thigh strain, welcomed Croft’s return. “In consultation with the medical teams and [Leicester director of rugby] Richard Cockerill, we’ve brought him back into the camp. He’s here tonight and available for Italy and Wales,” Lancaster said “It was never a selection decision, always a medical one, making sure he’s right physically to come back and play at international level. One of the key markers was playing back to back games. That box was ticked when he played 80 minutes at the weekend and played outstandingly well.”