Back aiming to add steel to Edinburgh
NEIL Back was charm personified yesterday, when he made his first public appearance as Edinburgh’s new forwards coach at the team’s training camp in St Andrews. There was no overt sign of the furious competitiveness which made him one of the most respected operators in world rugby during his illustrious playing career.
But through his easy smile and laid back body language, the former Leicester Tigers, England and Lions flanker was still able to convey his determination that he will mould the Edinburgh pack into a fighting unit capable of battling on various fronts during the season.
“I watched Edinburgh’s progression in the Heineken Cup last year without knowing I was going to come here, and I was very impressed by their style of play, their fluidity and the quality of players in the squad. So I am thrilled to be here and looking forward to the challenges we face this season,” said the 43-year-old, who arrived at Edinburgh just over a month ago after successful coaching spells with Leicester Tigers, Leeds Carnegie and Rugby Lions.
“But where we finished domestically was not good enough, and hopefully we can improve and be more consistent throughout the season,” he continued. “There are lots of issues and things to sort out, but we have a fantastic management team led by Michael [Bradley] and we’ve got some really talented players who I believe can not only perform well for Edinburgh and Scotland, but be world class [performers].”
Asked to compare his coaching style to some of the big names he worked under during his playing career, the new man refused to be pigeon-holed. “I’m definitely a Neil Back. I’m unique,” he said.
“I am here to do the very best job I can. In the last couple of years I have really cemented my coaching philosophy – and I believe that can benefit Edinburgh.
“Looking at the recruitment which has happened and knowing what quality was in the squad already, there is genuine depth here now – so the pressure is truly on us this year to perform better in the domestic competition,” he added.
“Having to fight for their place at club level is going to push them that little bit further, and maybe they haven’t had that in the past. That should give us that bit of steel that we need to travel to tough places on the road and get the results we need. You’ve got to stay the right side of the line and I would never advocate doing something against the laws, but within the laws it is a physical game and Edinburgh rugby need to be tougher up-front and in the contact area. As a coaching team that is one of our main focuses this year.”
Those who have even the faintest memory of Back as a player will not be able to resist a chuckle at his assertion that he would never advocate a player breaking the laws of the game. He was banned from playing for six months after pushing referee Steve Lander to the ground at the conclusion of Leicester’s 1996 Pilkington Cup Final defeat to Bath. Back claimed that he had mistaken Lander for his opposite number Andy Robinson – the man he now means to emulate by infusing a hard edge into Edinburgh’s flighty forward pack.
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Friday 24 May 2013
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