June International Tours

Neil gets ‘Back’ed for future with England

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Neil Back has the potential to return to international rugby as a coach, according to Exeter Chiefs boss Pete Drewett.


The England flanker and Director of Rugby Andy Key have been at the helm of National One outfit Leeds Carnegie for six months and already Drewett is tipping Back to follow in the footsteps of his World Cup winning team-mate Martin Johnson.


“There’s no doubt about it,” Drewett told today’s rfu.com podcast, “Neil has the potential to coach at the highest level. Andy has a massive wealth of experience so they are a formidable team and one that we’ve got a lot of respect for.”


This weekend, second placed Chiefs take on leaders Leeds in a match that Drewett admits may well decide the outcome of National One.

 

“We need to go up there and get a win to keep chasing. Neil Back is very good in his defensive coaching, Leeds have the best defence in the league at the moment so that’s the challenge.”

 

The introduction of a second professional tier below the Guinness Premiership has been welcomed by Drewett.

 

“From a Chiefs’ point of view, The Championship gives us the opportunity to be an asset to professional rugby, something that we’ve worked hard to be a part of. Money’s tight for everyone but we’re confident we’ve got pretty solid foundations to build on.”

Last week saw a thrilling 127th Nomura Varsity match, with the Twickenham crowd benefitting from eight tries and some wonderful nip and tuck rugby.


Amongst those watching was the victorious 1988 Oxford team, reuniting after 20 years and containing many rugby cognoscenti including the first man to lift the Webb Ellis trophy, Dark Blues scrum half that day, David Kirk.

 

“1988 was one of the great rugby playing years of my career. There were five out of seven international backs in our team and there was a lot of fluency about the way we played – it was great fun!

“I’ve had a lot of big rugby matches in my career and that game is up there amongst the top five or six matches in terms of the ones I really, really wanted to win.”


Another of those in the star-studded backline was a second World Cup winner, 1991 Wallaby Rob Egerton. “1988 is a very special memory because we ran the ball from everywhere and we had a terrific time. It’s up there with the very best backlines I’ve ever played with – probably just second to the Wallaby backline in ’91.”


Helping Oxford to a fitting 33-29 victory over Cambridge in this year’s event was Anton Oliver. For the former All Black hooker, Oxford has certainly been a learning experience.

 

“I’m so much happier now I’m learning stuff, growing as a person and experiencing new things. In all those capacities I’m the winner. I’m unemployed, so I’ve lost out on the revenue, but I’ve had a fairly good wicket.”

The return to University rugby has brought Oliver full circle. “I first started playing rugby at University in Otago and here I am back. I’ve lost a bit of hair and things are starting to sag but I’m loving every minute!”


With Christmas just around the corner, most rugby fans will be out celebrating. But with three big matches over the festive period it’s life as normal for England players James Haskell and Steve Borthwick.

 

“We all thoroughly enjoy what we do, we’re all used to the professional world now and we make sure we look after ourselves,” said Borthwick.

 

But there was some liquid refreshment on offer as the pair they took part in an underwater photoshoot to promote the launch of Guinness Premiership’s responsible drinking campaign.

 

“I’ve spent two minutes under water in various poses – obviously I came up for breath – but it’s totally different to anything I’ve ever done before!” s

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