Tom Croft aims to emulate Dan Lydiate
WALES v ENGLAND (Tomorrow, KO 5pm)
LAST year’s Grand Slam decider was secured with a stellar performance from a blindside flanker who had fought back from a career-threatening neck injury and England will be hoping history repeats itself tomorrow.
When France were beaten at the Millennium by Wales in 2012, the man of the match award was won by Newport Gwent Dragons back row forward Dan Lydiate.
It came four and a half years after he had been flown back from Perpignan by air ambulance following an injury where he crushed a disc in his neck and ruptured every ligament.
Earlier in the tournament he had exchanged number six jerseys in the Twicken-ham tunnel with Tom Croft, who suffered his own horror injury later in the season.
A mistimed tackle against Harlequins saw him suffer a triple break to his C6 vertebra and a burst disc.
Both men, completely different types of blindside flankers, were told that their careers weren’t just on the line – paralysis was a possibility.
Yet while Lydiate is sidelined because of an ankle injury and hamstring twinge tomorrow, Croft will make his first international start since the final game of last season’s Six Nations.
And he is confident that England won't make the same errors as they did when their Grand Slam challenge was derailed in Dublin in 2011.
"We have been in this position before two years ago in Ireland," he said. "This time, we are away again and we have to make sure that we don't make the mistakes we did then – I don't think for one minute that we will.
"The boys we have got in this squad will lead the game and fight tooth and nail to get that Grand Slam.
"We got stuck in the headlights against Ireland. They came out fast and Wales will do the same to try and bully us and take our attacking flair away.
"We have showed our character in fronting-up and defending this season, and we are going to have to do that against Wales early on and, hopefully, wear them out and then make some holes.
"It's a massive opportunity for the squad and the first landmark that this side can achieve en route to the World Cup in a few years' time."
The Leicester man, who replaces James Haskell, is one of four changes to England’s side that beat Italy last Sunday.
Ben Youngs and Owen Farrell are paired at half-back instead of Danny Care and Toby Flood while Joe Marler gets the nod ahead of Mako Vunipola at loosehead.