Aviva Premiership
Cockerill plays down Croft's Six Nations chances
ESPN Staff
January 4, 2013
Tom Croft claims a lineout in training, Pennyhill Park, Bagshot, March 16, 2012
Tom Croft will play for Leicester on Friday © Getty Images
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Players/Officials: Richard Cockerill | Tom Croft
Tournaments/Tours: Aviva Premiership

Leicester Tigers boss Richard Cockerill has sounded a note of caution ahead of Tom Croft's comeback on Friday night and has said that his re-integration on the field will take time.

Croft will play for the Tigers for the first time in eight months against Worcester at Sixways on Friday and his comeback sparked suggestions that he could feature for England during the Six Nations. Croft, who has 36 caps for England, is also in the frame for a spot on the British & Irish Lions tour next summer but Cockerill is keen to ease Croft back into action.

"It's a no-brainer that Tom's return has to be managed carefully, because the nature of the injury was such that we don't want to get it wrong or the consequences could be horrendous," Cockerill told the Telegraph. "The metal work in Tom's neck is good, the healing has been fine, but we've got to look at him playing one or two matches then having a couple of weeks off until we get to March and see where we are.

"There's no negotiation on that front. Stuart [Lancaster] and I know that and appreciate that. That's the medical advice and that's it. The player's welfare is the only consideration."

Croft suffered a neck injury last April and in the process, he fractured a vertebra. But in the time he has had away from the game, the flanker has piled on the muscle and Cockerill is excited about the impact Croft will have once he is back to full fitness.

"Tom has come back as dynamic as ever but more robust," Cockerill said. "He's so naturally athletic that he's always been a bit reluctant to bulk up. But part of the modern game is dealing with big blokes coming at you. At this stage of Tom's career, that extra muscle will help his game as well as protect his neck. He looks a lot bigger and that's a good sign."

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