Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 23 October 2014

Flood hails 'outstanding' Croft

Tom Croft played brilliantly against Harlequins

Tom Croft will report for British and Irish Lions duty on Monday after making an emphatic statement about his Test team credentials against Australia this summer.

England star Croft is among six Leicester players who will be on the Lions beat in London before heading back to the Tigers to start preparations for a ninth successive Aviva Premiership final appearance at Twickenham on May 25.

"Crofty is an outstanding athlete," said Leicester captain Toby Flood. "He will give you game-changing moments and we have a few of those players in the team, the guys you want to hang your hat on."

Tigers' pride of Lions - Croft, Manu Tuilagi, Ben Youngs, Dan Cole, Tom Youngs and Geoff Parling - all delivered top-drawer displays as Leicester destroyed Premiership play-off opponents Harlequins 33-16.

Flanker Croft, though, was the pick, highlighting an immense performance through a 50-metre solo score and a stunning try-saving tackle on his England colleague Danny Care when Quins led during the first-half. But Croft was far more concerned with team success than individual glory after helping to put Leicester one win away from landing a first Premiership title since 2010.

"It's good for the club (getting to Twickenham). The club is steeped in history in terms of reaching finals," Croft said. "It is an achievement, but everything focusses on the final and winning it. That has got to be the goal now."

While Croft's astounding work-rate helped drive Leicester to victory, full-back Mathew Tait's invention and attacking guile proved another significant factor during a second-half masterclass that even Quins must have felt like applauding.

It is almost three years since Tait won the last of his 38 England caps, but he is now playing arguably his best rugby since the 2007 World Cup and appears a worthy successor to retiring Tigers full-back Geordan Murphy.

"I am getting more comfortable with the position and knowing when and where to pop up," said Tait, who has played the majority of his career in the centre.

"I've had some shockers this year as well, so it is a continual learning process. Having someone like Geordan around giving little bits of advice has been a massive help. I've played full-back for 20-odd games this season. and I am really enjoying it. It's still very much a work in progress, but I am pleased with how it is progressing."

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