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.
|Birth name||Thomas Richard Croft|
|Date of birth||7 November 1985|
|Place of birth||Basingstoke, England|
|Height||1.98 m (6 ft 6 in)|
|Weight||110 kg (17 st 5 lb; 243 lb)|
|School||Park House School|
|Rugby union career|
Croft's best position was blindside flanker, he was known for his line-out agility and unusual speed for a forward; one of the quickest players in the Tigers squad his coach Aaron Mauger described him as the " fastest loose forward he had ever seen".
After scoring two tries against his Harlequins side in 2008 Dean Richards described Croft as an "outstanding talent" who "has everything", Martin Corry said England have never had a player blessed with Croft's abundant abilities.
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. The shoot-out ended before Croft's turn came up as Jordan Crane made the winning kick. 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.
He captained the Tigers for the first time on 3 October 2010, against Saracens.
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, a specialist described the injury "as close as you can to being paralysed”, He returned to the Tigers after 8 months injured in January 2013 against Worcester.
In November 2017, Croft announced his immediate retirement from rugby following a new neck injury and consulting a specialist. 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.
He gained his first England cap in the 2008 Six Nations win against France in Paris. 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.
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, 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. 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, though he regained his starting place from James Haskell for the Australian summer tour. 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. The second Test saw England beat Australia 20–21. 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 and the win against Australia, the latter cited by many to have been the best England performance for years. 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.
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.
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- Sherard, Gary (16 November 2017). "Croft announces his rugby retirement". LeicesterTigers.com. Retrieved 16 November 2017.
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- Cleary, Mick (11 June 2010). "Australia v England: Martin Johnson's side have a chance to silence the doubters". Daily Telegraph. London.
- "Australia 27–17 England". BBC Sport. 12 June 2010.
- "Australia 20–21 England". BBC Sport. 19 June 2010.
- "England 16–26 New Zealand". BBC Sport. 6 November 2010.
- "England 35–18 Australia". BBC Sport. 13 November 2010.
- "England 26–13 Samoa". BBC Sport. 20 November 2010.
- "Jonny Wilkinson out but Sam Warburton is captain". BBC Sport. 30 April 2013. Retrieved 1 May 2013.
- "Croft comes on for Haskell on return to internationals". 14 February 2015. Retrieved 14 February 2015.