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Clark's reward for taming aggression is an England call
12:00am Tuesday 15th January 2013 in Sport
CALUM Clark has to learn to control his aggression if he is going to take advantage of his call-up to England's Elite Player Squad for the Six Nations according to Red Rose team-mate Tom Croft.
The Stockton-on-Tees youngster, who attended Barnard Castle School, was a shock inclusion in Stuart Lancaster's 33-man squad having been suspended for 32 weeks after breaking Leicester hooker Rob Hawkins' elbow in last season's LV= Cup Final.
Clark returned to action against Leicester last November, and has already made four Premiership starts for club side Northampton since that comeback.
Croft himself has also been out of action for a considerable period having broken a bone in his neck while in action for Leicester at the end of last season.
After an eight-month absence he made his playing return against Worcester in the first game of 2013 and also earned an England recall from head coach Lancaster.
And while Croft, a teammate of Hawkins at the Tigers, admits there was a great deal of anger at the time of the incident, he insists it's now water under the bridge as England look to build on a landmark win over New Zealand in December.
Croft said: "Calum has had his ban, served his time and taken that hit. He obviously realises the severity of what he had done and, as a Leicester player and with Hawks [Hawkins] being a very close mate I was very frustrated and annoyed to be honest with the incident.
"But he has had his ban and he has learnt from it and nothing more will be said.
"It's important now the focus is on what he does best and that is playing rugby, not losing the head and keeping control, and that is a major thing at that level.
"He needs to be disciplined but bring a physical presence and he is very capable of doing that.
"It is good to see he has been playing well with his club and that has been rewarded with a call up.
"Not giving away needless penalties and keeping disciplined is not something that has necessarily needed to be made clear to him. He will know that in his own head.
"I think he has learnt from his mistakes and that is the sign of a good rugby player, not making the same mistakes over and over again."
The Hawkins incident wasn't the first time Clark has let his temper get the better of him, having been sent off when captaining England Under-20s in the Junior World Championships back in 2008.
Despite Lancaster's hard line on discipline, Clark has been given a place in the squad, with his ability to cover the second row making him a valuable asset.
And according to Croft, it was Clark's willingness to immediately apologise for the Hawkins incident which demonstrated that he has learned his lesson.
Croft added: "I think he has shown remorse. He apologised straight after the game and I think he realised what he did.
"Every now and again in a game of rugby you lose your head and do silly things and that is the nature of the game and these things happen.
"I am sure he has apologised on numerous occasions and that is the most important thing."
RUGBY UNION: Stockton-born England lock Geoff Parling has agreed terms on a new contract to stay with Leicester Tigers beyond the end of this season. He joined the club from Newcastle Falcons in the summer of 2009 and with his contract up Gloucester were reported to be interested in signing him.
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