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The 32-year-old, who won four Premiership titles with the Tigers, was forced to call time on his rugby career last month due to a neck injury after advice from doctors.

The Basingstoke-born ace’s 173rd and last appearance for the Welford Road outfit was a 21-14 victory over Ospreys in pre-season, while his final competitive game was a 32-10 Anglo-Welsh Cup semi-final triumph over Saracens in March.

Croft, who could operate at lock or flanker, also played five times for the British and Irish Lions, and he revealed to BBC East Midlands Today that being told he would never play again was like being hit with a sledgehammer.

“It hit me pretty hard and took me a couple of weeks to come to terms with it,” he said. “It was brutal. I drove straight to (see) Ben Youngs and broke down.

“It has been literally half my life since I was 16. Now I have to get back to the real world and go back home to the list of jobs that have been growing for the past 10 years.

“It is something I have probably buried my head in the sand about for a long time. I probably never thought I needed to retire. It was only when I spoke to Matty (Matt O’Connor), the specialists and the medics that it became apparent.”



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