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Tom Croft ruled out of Leicester Tigers' crunch clash at Harlequins


Leicester Tigers will head into Saturday's Aviva Premiership showdown with Harlequins at the Stoop without back-row forward Tom Croft.

The England and British & Irish Lions forward featured in 74 minutes of Tigers' 28-12 win against London Welsh at Welford Road at the weekend.

However, that was only his second Premiership appearance since coming back from the serious neck injury he suffered against Quins last April.

Tigers director of rugby Richard Cockerill made it clear after the victory against Welsh that medical advice was still a crucial factor when it came to the 27-year-old's selection.

"Tom won't play this weekend," said Cockerill. "That is the right thing to do.

"I would love Tom to play against Quins but he is not there medically at the moment."

However, it does not look like Croft will be absent for an extended period of time, which is good news for Leicester fans as Tigers are in the midst of a critical run of games.

"He will play against Saracens the following week, though, and we will see where he is at that point," said Cockerill.

Croft put in an outstanding shift in a physically demanding battle against the Exiles.

All areas of his game looked in good order and, in the strength-sapping conditions, he even found the pace and stamina to put in a vital covering tackle just after the hour-mark when an interception by the visitors' winger Phil Mackenzie threatened to shift the balance of a game that Tigers were largely controlling.

The cautious approach is one that is backed by Croft himself, and he said after the Welsh game: "We had a protocol when I came back against Worcester.

"It is easy to get over-excited now and ignore that, but we will be sensible."

That sensible approach involves a lot more of what he describes as "pre-hab", with more work concentrated on his neck and shoulders before and in between games.

"We are getting there and I am feeling good," said Croft.

"The neck is brilliant and the rest of the body is becoming battle-hardened.

"It is just nice to have finished the game and to have come out of it unscathed. It is nice to have played."

But just how far away is he from full fitness?

"It is tough to say," he said. "It could be another full 80, or a couple of full 80s under the belt to get where we want to be.

"The real bonus comes at the end of the season and the run-in, when I will be fresh."

With that return to full fitness getting closer, questions begin to loom about England and this summer's Lions tour.

Croft figured in all three Lions Tests against South Africa in 2009, but he is not getting ahead of himself.

"I'm just glad to be back playing for Leicester Tigers," he said. "I just want to carry on playing at the moment."

Tom Croft ruled out of Leicester Tigers' crunch clash at Harlequins

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