As Old Oakhamian, Leicester Tiger, England player and British and Irish Lion, Tom Croft this week announced his retirement from professional rugby, his former coach, Ian Smith, reflects on his many achievements.
Oakham School 1st XV 25 appearances
Leicester Tigers 173 appearances
England 40 caps
British and Irish Lions 5 caps
He rose high up above all around him, secured possession from the kick off and was into his stride almost before he landed. This was Tom’s first touch of a rugby ball in a match on Doncaster Close, the home of the Oakham School 1st XV. This astonishing piece of play, which was part of a tremendous debut performance, will live in the memory of all who were privileged to witness it.
Whether helping Oakham School win their second Daily Mail Cup Final in a row, winning Championships with Leicester Tigers, playing in World Cups with England, or simply scoring two tries on his debut for the British Lions Tom was always at the heart of everything on the pitch. His pace and power coupled with a great understanding of the game, along with his steely determination, has made him an outstanding contributor to the sport on the world stage.
There is much more to Tom than his rugby achievements. There is his GCSE in dance, his great cooking prowess, there is Tom the family man and then of course there is Tom the friend.
I have had the great pleasure of coaching Tom at Oakham School, as part of the England U19 squad and as part of Leicester Tigers. His dedication, determination and drive made him stand out from the start. Tom is a giant of the game. From his thunderous bursts down field, to his majestic leaps in the lineout, he was one of the game’s greatest technicians.
His contribution to rugby football has been hugely significant.
Oakhamians and, I am sure, rugby followers throughout the world wish Tom all the best in retirement from the game as he embarks on the next phase of his life.