Six Nations: Tom Croft 'to get stuck in' on England return
By Tom FordyceChief sports writer, BBC Sport
RBS Six Nations - England v Italy
Date: Sunday 10 March
Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
Coverage: Watch live from 14:30 on BBC One, BBC One HD, mobiles and online; listen on BBC Radio 5 live; text commentary on BBC Sport website and mobiles. Highlights BBC Two Sun 23:35, repeated BBC Two Mon 13:30.
England flanker Tom Croft says he will face his
Six Nations return
without fear despite being within millimetres of being paralysed in the accident that almost ended his career.
Tom Croft factfile
Croft returned to action in January after nine months out since sustaining a neck injury last April for Leicester against Harlequins
He said: "When you see a side going well, you don't expect them to make many changes. It's great to be re-joining a side that's playing well.
"I was watching the autumn internationals going past, then I was watching the start of the Six Nations going past. And that was frustrating.
England beat the All Blacks,
we were watching in the clubhouse at Leicester, and it was, 'Blimey, England are pulling New Zealand apart!'. And there's frustration that you're not involved. You want to be part of it."
Croft admitted that he was inspired through his long lay-off by the example of
the former Leicester prop who was paralysed from the neck down in a scrum accident on England Under-21 duty eight years ago.
Six Nations table
The accident left Hampson a quadriplegic, unable to breathe without a ventilator, but he has since established himself as a fund-raiser, writer and coach and remains heavily involved in the game.
"Hambo is the most upbeat character around, especially bearing in mind what happened to him," said Croft.
"He came through it and achieved massive things. It gave me hope that, if something did happen, then it's not the be all and end all. I haven't had to deal with it, but it gives you comfort - we play a contact sport, and these things can happen."
Croft was offered the services of a psychologist to help him with his return to full-contact rugby, but put his faith instead in the old-fashioned virtues of muscle and resolve; after losing five kilogrammes following the operation, he has now put nine back on.
"I wanted to deal with it by myself," he said. "If you're in a game and it's not going well, the last thing you want is someone on the side telling you what to do.
"For my own head I wanted to put weight on. Whether it was going to help or hinder my performance, it was purely about me having more size - going into contact situations, having a little more weight behind me, having a bit more padding behind me.
"Post-games at Leicester the physios have asked how the neck is. I've said, 'Fine, it's the rest of my body that's slowly falling to pieces'."
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