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Croft seeks to escape Lions shadow

Tom Croft is not comfortable trading on former glories but the England flanker is finding it difficult to convince people that his career will not be defined by the 2009 British and Irish Lions tour.

The 26-year-old was a late addition to Ian McGeechan's squad, called up after Munster's Alan Quinlan had been suspended, and he ended up playing an integral role in a titanic Test series. But Croft's England contributions ever since have been compared with those Lions Test performances and, away from the lineout, not always favourably.

Stuart Lancaster declared one of his objectives as England's interim coach was to get Croft delivering "Lions-esque" performances, but the flanker said: "I was very happy with the way that tour went but it's not just about trying to recreate that, for me it's about moving on from that."

He added: "I need to be getting round the corner in that carrying role, but also trying to integrate that into other parts - getting out into the wider channels, but also being as involved as possible at close quarters.

"I think it is impossible to recreate that Lions form exactly anyway. So I have to bring the best of that into my game, as well as everything else I am doing. I can't just end up being a one-dimensional player."

Croft will be up against a Welsh back-row trio in Dan Lydiate, his opposite man on the blindside, Sam Warburton and Toby Faletau who are not shy in grabbing a game by the scruff of the neck. That is something Croft, one of the most senior members of this new-look England side with 36 Test caps, has been criticised for not doing enough.

Asked ahead of England's RBS 6 Nations showdown with Wales whether he gets frustrated at the constant references to his Lions exploits, Croft paused.

His eventual answer was "no" but everything about it screamed "yes".

"It's nice to be spoken about with the Lions. When people talk about that, it doesn't annoy me but I explain that I'm trying to be better than that," Croft said. "I never come off the field feeling completely satisfied. In the last couple of games I've come off thinking that I could have got my hands on the ball more.

"It's not about the structure, I have to make sure I am getting in the right positions to get my hands on the ball."


From Belfast Telegraph