After making his Lions debut in East London in 1997, Back went on to make 14 appearances across three successive tours, including five Tests in South Africa, Australia and New Zealand respectively. His lengthy playing career ended at the highest possible level when he played his final competitive match in the First Test against New Zealand in 2005.
Neil Back factfile
Date of birth: January 16 1969
Clubs: Nottingham, Leicester
International caps: England 66 (World Cup winner in 2003)
Height: 5ft 10in (1.78m)
Weight: 14 stone (89kg)
Back's Lions lowdown
Lions debut: Versus Border Bulldogs, East London, May 28, 1997
Lions Tests: 5 (2nd and 3rd Tests 1997, 2nd and 3rd Tests 2001, 1st Test 2005)
Lions non-Test appearances: 10
Total Lions appearances: 15 (eight in 1997, five in 2001, two in 2005)
Lions points: 25 (five tries)
Final Lions appearance: Versus New Zealand, Christchurch, June 25 2005
On being selected for the 1997 tour
â00When my letter inviting me to join that squad hit the doormat, it had me in tears. Itâ00s a very special thing. Once youâ00ve made it to international level and youâ00ve got off the one-cap mark, I suppose the next goal is 50 caps. Very few get to 100. The next step up is to play for the Lions. Itâ00s the best of the four Home Nations and itâ00s got tremendous traditions.
â00Receiving that letter was a real highlight. The 1997 tour was a massive thing for me. My struggle to get international recognition at the highest level was well documented but itâ00s made me the person I am and I wouldnâ00t change a thing. Being involved with that fantastic Test series win in â0097 and having an influence in gaining success in a team sport was a great experience.â0
On becoming the oldest ever Lions Test player
â00Itâ00s not something I usually talk about but itâ00s something Iâ00m proud of, becoming the oldest Test Lion. Iâ00m proud to say, having achieved all I have in the game, my last game was in a Lions shirt. That was a fantastic way to bow out of the game, even though it wasnâ00t the most successful tour.â0
On the power of four
â00When you walk into a Lions camp as an England, Scotland, Ireland or Wales player, you become a Lion. Itâ00s great to rub shoulders with some of the greatest players ever to play the game in the Northern Hemisphere. To share their views and outlooks and get a different point of view on things is excellent.
â00I made some fantastic lifelong friends from the tours. You share moments both on and off the pitch that youâ00ll never forget. Iâ00m very proud and very pleased to have been involved in that.â0
On the travelling Lions support
â00The atmosphere and the fans are fantastic. They are unbelievable. When we walked into that stadium before the First Test in 2001 you knew, if you didnâ00t know already, what the Lions is all about. That was one of the highlights. It was a sea of red. The hairs on the back of your neck and all over your body were standing on end and you knew it was something special. I think thatâ00s why that performance on that day was as it was.
â00Fans are quite rightly passionate about their own team, whichever country they follow, but when they come together and put the red of the Lions on itâ00s something really special. The great ting about rugby union is that thereâ00s no segregation, the banter is fantastic and, on a Lions tour, everyone comes together and they become Lions.â0
On Ian McGeechan
â00Although I was on standby for the 1993 tour, I hadnâ00t been capped then so I didnâ00t really expect to go. It was Ian who pencilled me in for the 1997 tour. I had seven caps by then and Iâ00d played in the 1995 World Cup which had given me a bit of profile but it was his recognition of what I could bring on the hard grounds of South Africa that really influenced my selection.
â00Ian makes everyone feel that they have an opportunity. I went into the 1997 tour as a non-Saturday player but, through him, I was given a carrot and I definitely believed that, if I played well enough, Iâ00d be given an opportunity and thatâ00s what happened.
â00Ian kept everyone involved and motivated and he was very supportive. That was highlighted after the First Test win in â0097 when the guys who were involved in that Test were all out the next day helping the other guys prepare for the mid-week game. That was indicative of the players that were there and what was influenced by Ian.â0
On touring South Africa
â00The South Africans love their rugby. Theyâ00re very passionate, very physical and a very proud nation. In 1997, we went here, there and everywhere and experienced their hospitality both on and off the field. It was fantastic. I loved playing on the hard, fast grounds week-in, week-out. The conditions in terms of the heat and the altitude didnâ00t really worry me. It suited my game back then.
â00In 1997, the security risk was potentially higher than it is now. We had a lot of plain clothes people that we didnâ00t know protecting us. That was a bit of a concern but I never felt threatened when I was there. To see the barbed wire around the houses, the fences and the security, did put a bit of an edge to it but I suppose you were in a bit of a cocoon. What youâ00ll get before the match is the pom pom girls and the cheerleaders that will test peopleâ00s concentration as they enter the arena!â0