RUGBY World Cup winner Neil Back has been appointed Edinburgh forwards coach on a two-year deal. The former England openside flanker arrives with nearly a decade of coaching experience.
His appointment will add fuel to the arguments of those who believe home-grown coaches are not being given the chance to shine in the Scottish professional game.
However, Back comes north with an impressive record of coaching success after a stellar playing career. And Edinburgh coach Michael Bradley was clearly excited by the prospect of teaming up with the “consistent winner”.
He said: “There is a consistent thread of success throughout his playing and coaching career, his attention to detail is exceptional and he has already outlined clearly the standards he expects of himself and our squad.
“Technically, he is very strong and his coaching credentials stand out as someone who gets the best out of players – a characteristic which, added to him being a consistent winner, makes him a positive appointment for Edinburgh Rugby. If our forwards can embrace that sort of focus and commitment, then Edinburgh Rugby will go from strength to strength.”
In a playing career spanning 15 years at Leicester Tigers from 1990 to 2005, Back won four English Premiership titles and two Heineken Cups. But it was as part of England’s famed and feared back-row combination of Richard Hill, Lawrence Dallaglio and himself that Back achieved international prominence. It was the cornerstone of England’s success at the turn of this century, culminating in their World Cup victory in Australia in 2003.
He won 66 caps after making his debut at Murrayfield in England’s 15-14 win over Scotland in 1994, and he made three Lions tours, including the victorious one in South Africa in 1997 led by Ian McGeechan and Jim Telfer. After England’s World Cup-winning year, Back spent two seasons as both Leicester captain and player-coach, before being promoted to assistant coach when he retired from playing after the Lions’ miserable tour of New Zealand in 2005.
He was in that role for three seasons and, during the five seasons in which he had coaching responsibilities at Welford Road, Leicester played in four Premiership finals and reached the Heineken Cup final in 2007.
He became head coach of English Championship side Leeds Carnegie in 2008 and, in the first of three seasons at the club, won the league and promotion to the Premiership. Last season, he led National League 3 side Rugby Lions to the title with a 100 per cent winning record.
Speaking about his new role in Edinburgh, Back promised to bring “100 per cent commitment” to the job. He said: “This role presents a fantastic challenge and I’m very grateful to get the opportunity at such a high-profile club. It’s a very exciting time for Edinburgh Rugby with a great squad, exciting new players arriving and some positive performances to build on from last season. There are lots of elements to a rugby player, and to being in a position to excel technically and physically, so my coaching philosophy is to be meticulous in everything we do. It’s very much about the absolute fine detail needed to maximise your potential. I’m a passionate coach. I’m 100 per cent committed, 100 per cent of the time, and I’m really looking forward to this challenge.”
Back endured some controversial moments during his playing career, notably in 1996 when he pushed referee Steve Lander to the ground after he had blown the final whistle on Leicester’s Pilkington Cup final defeat at the hands of Bath. Back later claimed he had mistaken Lander for Andy Robinson, who was playing opposite Back that day in Bath’s back row, but he was banned for six months. He also incurred the wrath of the Irish press and public in the Heineken Cup final against Munster in 2002. With Leicester leading 15-9 in the final moments, Munster won a scrum deep in Leicester territory as they searched for the winning score. But, with the referee unsighted, Back illegally knocked the ball from Munster scrum-half Peter Stringer’s hand and Leicester cleared to secure victory.
And there will be some who will feel his latest appointment provides further evidence of a ‘glass ceiling’ blocking Scottish club coaches making the grade in the professional game that Peter Wright spoke about in March when he announced he was standing down as Glasgow Hawks director of rugby.
Only one coach in the current professional set up in Scotland – Shade Munro at Glasgow Warriors – developed his talents in Scotland, although the SRU are running a Continuing Professional Development programme for club coaches with the potential of a two-year placement with a professional club.
Back will begin his new role at Murrayfield later this month.
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Tuesday 18 June 2013
Temperature: 10 C to 21 C
Wind Speed: 10 mph
Wind direction: South
Temperature: 10 C to 19 C
Wind Speed: 16 mph
Wind direction: West