FOLLOWING the shock defeat of world champions New Zealand on their last outing, England flanker Tom Croft admits the Red Rose are under pressure to emerge victorious from the upcoming Six Nations campaign.

Basingstoke-born Croft earned a recall to Stuart Lancaster’s squad ahead of the opener against Scotland at Twickenham on Saturday (kick-off 4pm), following eight months out through injury.

The Leicester Tigers ace is unlikely to be available to Lancaster until the later stages of the competition, particularly after leaving the field early in only his second game back as his club side Leicester Tigers beat Wasps in the LV= Cup on Saturday.

But the 27-year-old admits he will have an eye on events in the Calcutta Cup, and is aware of the need for Lancaster’s men to get off to a good start.

“The win against New Zealand was massive for England as a whole in terms of restoring faith and giving the boys confidence,” he said. “Going into the Six Nations there will be a lot of pressure on them.

“After that win they will be expected to go well and in that first game against Scotland will expect a big show, with hopefully the right result going our way. I think if we are going to build upon where we were last year, only losing one game, we have really got to push on and aim to win the title this year.

“It’s a highly contested tournament. We have got the players that were blooded for the first time in the last Six Nations and now they have a few more caps through the summer and in the autumn.

“They are more experienced now, and hopefully we can push on and really put pressure on the other teams.”

Croft will not be involved on Saturday but former Lord Wandsworth College pupil Ugo Monye and London Irish centre Jonathan Joseph were both in Stuart Lancaster’s initial squad. However, Exiles prop Alex Corbisiero will miss the entire tournament after undergoing a knee operation.

Emma Croker, the wife of Basingstoke RFC director of rugby James Croker, has been named in the England Women’s team for their opening Six Nations match against Scotland at Esher RFC on Saturday (kick-off 2pm).

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