Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Tom Croft: Not Getting Enough Credit

I have to admit that I’m feeling a little smug today. In my last blog post I dared to suggest that England might actually have an edge on the Aussies in terms of mobility in the pack. Naturally I was completely panned for this in the forums.

Tom Croft playing for England
Croft: World-Class

 Now I’m not saying that I predicted the result at Twickenham (certainly not the margin), but frankly I am yet to see another journalist or blogger on the planet who even hinted that England could win using anything other than forward grunt.
Ok, gloating over.
There’s been a huge amount of focus in the press on the young additions to the England team (namely Ben Youngs, Courtney Lawes, Chris Ashton and Ben Foden), and rightly so. It’s certainly not a coincidence that England’s performances have improved with the introduction of four players with such dynamism.
But I believe that there is one player in the England side who is being grossly underappreciated right now. Tom Croft. gave him a 7/10 for his performance at the weekend, a respectable score, but not so impressive when compared to the 7.47 team average that was handed out. I know there were some huge England performances, but can you seriously argue that Tom croft was a below average performer at the weekend?
Often these ratings only really note memorable incidents and key moments. But nonetheless surely a stunning offload for the first try and a sublime take on the 2nd half kick-off were enough to illuminate his quality to even the least perceptive viewers. His all round performance was composed and extremely mobile, in other words it summed up England at the weekend.
Croft is one of the most influential sixes in world rugby. Compare him to the alternative, James Haskell, who played instead of the injured Croft in the last six nation’s campaign. The gap in skill level and game intelligence between the two is actually quite scary. There is simply no doubt that Crofts return to the England set up in place of a talentless gym-monkey like Haskell has played a role in reigniting England. The difference between Croft and Haskell is the difference between England at the weekend and England Vs Scotland in the Calcutta Cup. (The link takes you to a match report, not a highlights video, there were no highlights). More intelligent, more accurate, more creative.
And all of this is without even mentioning the fact that he is one the best lineout forwards on the planet. His mere presence allows Johnson the freedom to pick two huge locks in Lawes and Palmer without sacrificing lineout options.
This current England squad has a few young guys who could well turn out to be world class, but right now Tom Croft is the one player in the England team who I would seriously consider for a place in a world XV right now.

James Haskell has just been named in the starting XV vs Samoa this weekend, so once again my opinions will be put to the test. Needless to say I'm not expecting much from him.

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