Lions legend ready for new challenge

Former Lions star Neil Back achieved everything there is to achieve as a player and now he is determined to taste even more success as a coach. [more]

Lions legend ready for new challenge

Former Lions star Neil Back achieved everything there is to achieve as a player and now he is determined to taste even more success as a coach.

The ex-Leicester openside won domestic and European honours with his club, Five Nations and Six Nations championship crowns and a World Cup with his country and a Tests series with the Lions in an outstanding playing career that spanned both the amateur and professional eras.

And now the oldest Test Lion in history is preparing to lead Leeds Carnegie back into the Guinness Premiership in just his second season as a head coach.

Back ended a long association with Leicester last year when he and fellow Tigers coach Andy Key made the trip north to join Leeds in their quest to secure promotion straight back to England’s top flight following their relegation in 2007/08.

Promotion was duly secured at the first attempt and the 40-year-old is now back where he belongs among England’s elite.

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"The players have been excellent throughout pre-season and they are in great shape,” said Back, who is under no illusions as to the step up in class between National One and Premiership rugby.

”We introduced contact work into training last week and I have to admit that it got a bit tasty at times but that is what you want with a committed group of players.

"Pre-season is tough for every player but we have worked hard to vary up the locations and the type of training we have been doing to keep them fresh.

”Last week we travelled to Whitby to train by the sea and we have also been to York, Wakefield and Otley to keep the lads on their toes. We have also been doing cycling, boxing and wrestling amongst other things as part of our conditioning programme.”

Back and his Leeds squad are currently in France preparing to take on Montauban in a pre-season friendly – their second game in four days following Tuesday’s 19-14 win over Aurillac.

New signings Marco Wentzel, Gareth Hardy and Ceiron Thomas are all set to appear against Montauben this evening, while fellow new recruit Alfie To’oala played on Tuesday.

"The trip to France has come at an ideal time for us,” added Back.

“We will make changes in the two games so that we give everyone game time and the two games are more about seeing how we fit together rather than about winning matches.

"Only Henry Fa’afili of our new recruits is not part of the tour party so it is a chance for the new guys to show what they can do in a game environment for their new team-mates to get an understanding of what they bring to the game.

”Everything we do in pre-season is geared to getting us ready for September 6 and that is what we are focused on."

Leeds begin their Guinness Premiership campaign against Newcastle Falcons on Sunday, September 6 at Headingley Carnegie.

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