Robinson welcomes Back call-up

England coach Andy Robinson has saluted Neil Back's durability after the Leicester flanker made Lions history. [more]

Lions Australia Tour 2013

England coach Andy Robinson has saluted Neil Back’s durability after the Leicester flanker made Lions history.

At 36, World Cup-winner Back becomes the oldest player in Lions history selected for an original squad.

He will travel to New Zealand this summer despite having retired from international rugby a year ago, but his qualities are such that Lions boss Sir Clive Woodward felt he could not be ignored.

Back, among 20 Englishmen selected for the 11-match trip, will be reunited with his World Cup back row partners Richard Hill and Lawrence Dallaglio.

Between them, the revered trio boast 210 caps, and it would be no surprise if they broke into Woodward’s Test team against New Zealand.

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"He is an outstanding player, something that he has shown over the year," said Robinson, who will be among Woodward’s right-hand men on the trip.

"Neil has had so many barriers put in front of him during his career, but every barrier he has been able to knock down and become successful.

"That is because of his self-motivation, belief and ability, which have shown in his performances this year.

"He and Martyn Williams will be really competing for the number seven spot."

English players will comprise almost half of the 44-man Lions squad, and that number could increase if Jonny Wilkinson regains full fitness and is able to make a late selection claim.

Woodward has kept the door open for England’s World Cup final winner to travel, although it appears that his fellow injury victims Mike Tindall and Phil Vickery might run out of time.

Eight of the English players selected did not start a game in this season’s RBS 6 Nations championship, but Woodward had already seen enough of promising young Lions such as Matt Stevens, Andy Titterrell and Andrew Sheridan, while Leicester centre Ollie Smith pressed his claims with some superb displays in Leicester colours this term.

But, while there is joy for the likes of Stevens and Sheridan, seasoned England performers such as Joe Worsley and Steve Borthwick miss out.

"It is always disappointing for players when they are not selected," Robinson admitted.

"But we have to look at the players who have been selected, because it is about them. It just shows how the Lions is different from England.

"As coaches we will be looking to get the best out of the players – that is what our challenge is. But ultimately, it is about the players and the way they perform on the day that is going to determine the success of this trip.

"It is vital that we get the preparation right and that all the players perform to their best. It is going to be a huge challenge, and for me as a coach, it is a massive opportunity against a team that is arguably the best in the world at the moment."

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