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Lions pick owes a lot to Tigers, says Croft

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Tom Croft says the Leicester Tigers environment played a huge role in six of the club's players being selected for the British & Irish Lions.

Tigers players Croft, Dan Cole, Geoff Parling, Manu Tuilagi, Ben Youngs and Tom Youngs were all named in the 37-man squad to tour Australia in the summer, which was announced on Tuesday.

Croft will take part in his seconds Lions tour after playing in all three Tests in South Africa in 2009.

And he said: “It’s a testament to the club and how it deals with its player, coming from injury, changing position and coming through the Academy system and they expose the players when they’re ready. All six of us owe a great deal to Leicester Tigers.”

Tuilagi had plenty more to celebrate on the day when he was named Young Player of the Year and won Try of the Year at the Supporters End of Year Awards.

“To have six from Leicester Tigers in the squad is unreal,” Tuilagi said. “To have the guys you play with week in and week out is fantastic but when we all come together we are all one.

“Going on tour with the Lions and knowing you have the opportunity to, hopefully, play alongside some of the great players is a huge honour.”

Parling said the experience of touring with the Lions could prove beneficial to Tigers come the 2013-14 season.

“It’s great news for the club,” Parling said. “Hopefully, the experience that we can get over there, of playing with different players, of playing against different guys and in a different environment can only be good for next season.

“At the moment, you’ve just been named in the squad to go over there but the big challenge now is to get involved in those games.”

Ben and Tom Youngs are the first brothers to be selected for a Lions tour since the Underwood and the Hastings brothers in 1993.

Ben said: “It hasn’t really sunk in yet but being on a British & Irish Lions tour is the dream of any rugby player.

“I heard when we came off the training field and the announcement was on the TV in the team room.

“It is a very special moment and a very proud moment for the whole family with myself and my brother there.

“It’s great for those people who have always been there supporting us through the highs and lows.

“For Tigers to have six players in the squad is great and it is a credit to the Academy here that five of the squad came through there.

“I’ve had some proud moments in my rugby career already but this is definitely the proudest.”

His brother Tom added: “The Tigers have been outstanding, I can’t thank them enough. I can’t thank some of the players enough, either.

“You’ve got Coley who would constantly talk to me about scrums, Boris Stankovich, exactly the same, they looked after me the whole time. You’ve got George Chuter who’s been outstanding mentoring me last year, just helping me out. You’ve got Geoff Parling who’s been calling great line-outs for me, helping me in that situation.

“Then you’ve got Richard Cockerill who has stuck with me and kept going. So, I owe a lot to this club and even when I was on loan to Nottingham they stuck by me and I was doing all of my conditioning here and they’ve invested a lot of time in me and I can’t thank them enough.

“When I pull on that Lions jersey it’s for them, it’s for everyone. It’s for everyone who’s helped me and my whole family. It’ll be a very special day for myself.”

Cole said the priority was to finish the Aviva Premiership season on a high, starting with the visit of London Irish to Welford Road on Saturday.

“It’s exciting to be in the squad because the Lions are the biggest thing in British and Irish rugby,” he said. “There are six of us who have been selected and that’s great for us six but there’s another 40 guys at Tigers who haven’t been and their goal for the season is to win the Aviva Premiership, as is ours, and that’s what comes first.

“You have to park those emotions for a month, hopefully three more games, and target the Aviva Premiership.”