Tom Croft puts nerves aside to enjoy being Leicester Tigers' skipper
Leicester Tigers' Tom Croft said he felt "really proud and honoured" to captain his side on his 100th start for the club.
Croft led Tigers to a 48-10 victory against Sale in the Aviva Premiership on Saturday – 10 years after joining the club's academy.
It was just his fifth game for Tigers since returning from a career-threatening neck injury that forced him to watch from the sidelines for nine months.
You would not have guessed it though, as the back-rower put in a world-class performance in front of the Welford Road faithful.
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"I'm just really proud and honoured," said the 27-year-old. "It's something you always keep track of, and it shows your progression through the side.
"Having seen Matt Smith get it a couple of weeks ago, and Geordan Murphy isn't far off his 300th, it is nice to see boys reaching landmarks.
"It is great to have reached that landmark and, hopefully, I can get some more after this.
"Nerves was one of the biggest emotions, having lost on the last two occasions I've been captain. But I am just proud to have had that opportunity.
"It is nerve-wracking because you don't want to let the team down. But it is an honour.
"I was surrounded by guys who were stepping up, taking responsibility and leading the team on their own, so it was quite an easy day as captain."
Croft's performance on Saturday showed that he has clearly hit the ground running on the road to recovery, but the England international said he is just pleased to be playing again.
"I think it's a mixture of adrenalin and relief," he said.
"After the Worcester game (his return in January), I said my main emotion was relief that I had got through the game unscathed.
"But to be able to back it up with more games is great, and I am just enjoying playing the game again.
"The nerves are always there but it's nice waking up on a Saturday morning a bit nervous, jumping in the car and coming to the ground.
"It is good getting back into that routine, rugby players are all about routine and when that is disrupted you feel a bit lost."
Croft was confident he is close to full fitness.
"It is hard to quantify what 100 per cent is," he said. "I felt good and I'm sure there is more in the tank.
"But I'm happy (with my performance). There were a couple of penalties and a missed tackle here or there, which I still need to rectify.
"I will keep building as I get game-time. Is a player ever at 100 per cent? It is hard to say.
"There is always a niggle or a lack of energy, but I felt good and the boys played well.
"It is always easy to play well in a team that is playing well."