ASTON Croall admits it will be an emotional occasion when he takes on Sale Sharks with Harlequins on Saturday – and not just because they are his former side.
For it was when Croall (pictured) was still playing for Sale last summer that his brother Stephen – a prop with London Welsh, Rotherham, Cambridge and Westcombe Park – tragically took his own life.
Four months later, last November, Quins made a move to bring back their former player, who had originally been at The Stoop for five years from 2005, following some injuries in the front row.
Croall said: “It was not an easy decision to make, but my mind was made up to return to Quins so I could be closer to my family in Kent after my brother passed away.
“The Sale lads were really good to me when it happened, and I had my brother on my mind when I played my first game back for them, but when you get on the pitch you have to concentrate on your job in hand.
“The Quins lads have been great too, helping with a trust fund we set up for his family, which is why I look a state with this huge beard at the moment, for sponsorship. It would be a worthy tribute to my brother if I could lift the Premiership trophy with Quins.
“For now, we have to make sure we give ourselves the best possible chance by securing a top two place and a home semi-final. After being top for most of the season, it would be disappointing not to anyway.
“But it won't be easy, Sale need to make sure they finish in the top six to be sure of a Heineken Cup place, so both teams have it all to play for.”
It might be only six months since Croall left Edgeley Park, but the loosehead prop/hooker admits Quins boss Conor O'Shea has not needed to probe him for his former team-mates' strengths and weaknesses.
Croall added: “When I saw the information handed out to our players ahead of the game, I knew we had come up trumps with what we knew about Sale, and thought 'fair play', they didn't really need anything else from me.
“I would say that is the biggest difference about Quins since I rejoined from when I first played here – the club has made massive strides in the information it gathers on the opposition, which has helped the club become a real success