Full steam ahead as Tom Croft is given clean bill of health for Leicester Tigers
Flanker Tom Croft has been given the all-clear to play a full part in Leicester Tigers' end-of-season run-in.
The 27-year-old England and British & Irish Lions back-rower has only been allowed to play every other week as his steady rehabilitation continued from a serious neck injury that kept him out of the game for nine months.
But after his best performance of the season against Saracens last weekend, Croft will head into Saturday's crucial game against Sale Sharks with a clean bill of health.
"Tom is now ready to play consecutive weeks for us," said Cockerill.
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"He has metal work in his neck to hold everything together while it heals.
"What you don't want is the screws to be working loose and that's why he was only playing every other week, to control the amount of impact and vibration going through him.
"He's been doing that for two months and we have had no adverse reaction to that. He has looked more and more comfortable as he has played every week.
"He was scanned on Monday and his X-ray has been sent to the specialist, who is happy that it has healed enough.
"It will take months for it to be completely healed so we will still manage him, but Tom was looking good at the weekend and I am pleased for him, because it was a serious injury."
While Croft will be fit to start again, Tigers also have No.8 Thomas Waldrom at their disposal after he was released by England to play during their week off from the Six Nations. But England will hold on to the rest of Leicester's England contingent, including fly-half Toby Flood, after Owen Farrell picked up a foot injury in the win against France last Saturday.
Martin Castrogiovanni will also be missing with a neck injury.
"Castro is not fit and not coming back from Italy," said Cockerill. "His neck is no good. Who knows how long he will be out for. He is staying with Italy for treatment."
Louis Deacon and Steve Mafi will also be out for the visit of the Premiership's bottom club, but Anthony Allen is set to return after missing last weekend and Niall Morris should have recovered from a bicep injury.
Cockerill admitted the meeting with Sale would be an "almost must-win" after consecutive defeats to the league's top two sides.
"It has been disappointing, the last couple of weeks for us results-wise," he said.
"But, in terms of performance, we have done some good things and some poor things.
"The second half of last weekend was not really good enough. We could have won at Quins and we should have managed the second half better against Saracens.
"We are still in a good spot league-wise and this weekend's game is vitally important."