Round-Up: Injury cuts short Croft's comeback trail to end hopes of England recall


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The Independent Online

Tom Croft's second match back after eight months out with a neck injury lasted 11 minutes at Welford Road as Leicester's England flanker went off with a rib injury in the 34-8 LV=Cup win over Wasps.

A strong performance would have enhanced Croft's claims to a Test recall some time during the Six Nations' Championship, but he was hurt in the act of stealing Wasps ball and walked off while Leicester got on with securing a bonus point with tries by prop Logovi'i Mulipola, Croft's replacement Michael Noone, full-back Mathew Tait and wing Niki Goneva (2).

"Tom's OK," said Tigers' director of rugby Richard Cockerill on Croft's injury (pictured right). "He stiffened up and had a spasm and he just couldn't continue."

Harlequins – who like Leicester and Saracens are contesting three competitions – are well set for a semi-final as the only unbeaten team after three of the four rounds of pool matches. Quins beat London Welsh 23-6 at The Stoop and ended the Exiles' chances of progressing. Front-rowers Mark Lambert and Dave Ward grabbed tries for Quins and Ben Botica booted 13 points.

The LV=Cup is a competition in which you might win something with kids. Not Gloucester, though – they, like London Welsh and Newport-Gwent Dragons, are out of contention even before next weekend's final round of pool matches – although they were happy to see 20-year-old fly-half Ryan Mills return from a knee injury with a try at Northampton on his first appearance since last June. But the Saints replied with their first home tries since November through centre Luther Burrell and prop Alex Waller in a 26-7 victory.

Saints' England full-back Ben Foden played the full 80 minutes, while his positional rival Alex Goode is expected to manage about 50 for Saracens today when they host Cardiff Blues in the first serious match on the new artificial pitch at the refurbished Copthall Stadium in north London. A test-event crowd of 3,500 will not be alone in passing judgment on the £450,000 pitch. The Independent on Sunday understands South Africa's Blue Bulls are considering whether plastic may be fantastic for their Loftus Versfeld ground in Pretoria, which is one of the world's oldest Test venues.

Two more young No 10s – Bath's Tom Heatchote and Exeter's Henry Slade – traded two penalties apiece in the first half at the Rec but were upstaged thereafter by the 35-year-old on-loan Munster scrum-half Peter Stringer, who sniped for two tries in five minutes in Bath's 16-6 win. "I still have that ambition and drive to play at the highest level," he said.

Danny Cipriani scored 21 points in Sale's 36-17 bonus-point defeat of a weakened Scarlets. The Aviva Premiership's bottom club would be guaranteed a place in the Anglo-Welsh last four with a bonus-point win at Wasps on Saturday. Newport-Gwent Dragons defeated the similarly doomed Scarlets 18-14, with Stephen Jones kicking six penalties.