Aviva Premiership
Croft on brink of Tigers return
ESPN Staff
December 19, 2012
England's Tom Croft on the charge, England v Ireland, Six Nations, Twickenham, England, March 17, 2012
Tom Croft has not played for England since the 2012 Six Nations © Getty Images
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England and Leicester Tigers flanker Tom Croft could make his first appearance for eight months when the Tigers take on Gloucester at Welford Road on December 29.

The 27-year-old has not played since damaging his neck in a tackle on Nick Easter during the Aviva Premiership clash with Harlequins in April. He was stretchered off the field and required surgery.

Croft, who consequently missed England's summer tour of South Africa and autumn international campaign, is back in training and Leicester director of rugby Richard Cockerill says he could return for the Tigers' Premiership clash with the Cherry and Whites on December 29.

"Tom is probably a week away and that is good news for us," Cockerill told the Leicester Mercury. "It will be a slow integration and we will have to look after him. He hasn't played for eight months and we are conscious of that. His injury was a serious one and it's about him being confident when he comes back.

"Tom has seen the specialist and he was pretty happy with what he saw. We will get him back playing and that could be as early as Gloucester. We will just have to see because he hasn't played for so long. I don't normally get good news like that from physios!"

Croft, therefore, should be back with plenty of time to challenge for a place in England's squad for the 2013 Six Nations, which begin at the start of February. Time on the sideline has also given Croft the opportunity to build his upper body strength and Cockerill says he will return a heavier and more robust player.

"Tom has put weight on and is looking in good shape," said Cockerill. "He is 110kg (17-and-a-half stones) now, whereas he has always been around 104kg (16-and-a-half stones) before. We feel that extra bulk will make him more robust. He actually looks like a rugby player now! It's just the healing of the bones that has to be right."

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