BRITISH & Irish Lion Tom Croft insists England boss Martin Johnson is spoilt for choice in the back row but believes London Wasps-bound James Haskell won’t give up on a World Cup berth without a fight.
The 26-year-old partnered Croft and England captain Lewis Moody in the back row as England won the first of two warm-up matches against Wales on Saturday.
Haskell did himself no harm scoring England’s opening try 25 minutes in at Twickenham as they ran out 23-19 winners, however, Moody did hobble off with a knee injury.
Coach Johnson appears to have an abundance of options in the back row with Nick Easter, Chris Robshaw, Hendre Fourie and Tom Wood all still at the World Cup training camp.
And Croft, who wasn’t part of the England team that reached the World Cup final in 2007, is adamant Haskell, who also missed out, won’t let up in pursuit of his place.
“We’ve obviously got a lot of people who can play in the back row in the squad,” said Croft, speaking at the announcement of SSE’s three-year partnership as National Community Partner of the Rugby Football Union and title sponsors of the National and Divisional Leagues.
“I think it is very good for the squad and the fact there are more players than there are spaces means you have to be at your best all the time.
“When you’re given your chance you have got to take it, like James did, because if you don’t, someone else will step in and do a better job – guaranteed.
“It’s been a long summer so far and there are 30 players on the plane for the World Cup and so you have got to work hard and claim one of those places for yourself.”
Johnson will announce the final 30 from the initial 45 that will travel to New Zealand on August 22 and could yet take six back-rowers including Haskell.
However Croft, who represented the Lions during the tour of South Africa in 2009, insists Haskell won’t be taking anything for granted between now and then.
“Competition is very high in this six or seven week period building up to the World Cup as we are all fighting for limited space on that plane,” he added.
“It’s a good place to be, the England squad, but you have to wait to see the squad announced to see how you’ve got on.”
SSE, a leading energy company and National Community Partner of the RFU, is launching a new grassroots club rugby campaign, backed by Tom Croft.
Tell us what your rugby club needs at www.SSErugby.com to win 2012 England International tickets.