The 27-year-old flanker could make his return to first team rugby when the Leicester Tigers take on Gloucester at Welford Road on 29 December.
Croft has not played since damaging his neck in a tackle on Nick Easter during Leicester’s Aviva Premiership clash against Harlequins in April.
He was stretchered off the field and required surgery, consequently missing England’s summer tour of South Africa and autumn international campaign, as first Tom Johnson and then Tom Wood occupied the No 6 jersey.
And Leicester director of rugby Richard Cockerill is hopeful Croft will return for the Tigers’ Premiership clash against the Cherry & Whites as he targets a return to full fitness.
“Tom is probably a week away and that is good news for us,” Cockerill told the Leicester Mercury. “It will be a slow integration and we will have to look after him.
“He hasn’t played for eight months and we are conscious of that. His injury was a serious one and it’s about him being confident when he comes back.
“Tom has seen the specialist and he was pretty happy with what he saw. We will get him back playing and that could be as early as Gloucester.
“We will just have to see because he hasn’t played for so long – I don’t normally get good news like that from physios!”
Croft therefore should be back in time to challenge for a place in England’s squad for the 2013 Six Nations, with Stuart Lancaster’s men opening up against Scotland.
Time on the sidelines has also given Croft the opportunity to build his upper body strength and Cockerill says he will return a heavier and more robust player.
“Tom has put weight on and is looking in good shape,” added Cockerill. “He is 110kg now, whereas he has always been around 104kg.
“We feel that extra bulk will make him more robust – he actually looks like a rugby player now! It’s just the healing of the bones that has to be right.”
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