Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Rugby

England need new type of back-row forward, urges Neil Back

Former England openside Neil Back believes the World Cup has illustrated the need for the Aviva Premiership to reverse its production line of back-row clones.

New Zealand and Australia have elevated their work at the breakdown to a new level through the intelligence, technique and bravery of players such as David Pocock, Michael Hooper, Richie McCaw and Kieran Read.

It is a critical battleground in every match and an area in which 2003 World Cup winner Back insists England are being exposed through a failure to develop back rows with different skill sets.

The former Leicester forward, who was known for his speed over the ground and link play, insists European rugby will be left behind unless adjustments are made, but detects the will to bring about change.

"In the Premiership our flankers are all magnolia - so big, strong and very committed," Back said.

"We're not producing players like Richie McCaw, Michael Hooper or David Pocock and we need to find them.

"I'd allocate more time to skill development and decision-making, particularly in the contact area because that's where we need to improve massively.

"In the past we've gone big, strong and physical, when we need to balance that with skill as well. That's what happens in the southern hemisphere.

"You need a player in the team whose sole responsibility is to provide continuity, while preventing the continuity of the opposition.

"I believe changes will begin to happen this season. The people at our clubs are highly motivated and skilled. They want to take the game forward.

"We need to improve our attack philosophy and I'm hoping this World Cup will bring about a change in our thinking, so more ball in hand and an improvement in the skills needed to play that type of game.

"There have been lots of tries already this season in the Premiership and there needs to be massive change because otherwise we'll just fall further behind."

Back believes the legacy impact of the home World Cup will not have suffered from England's dismal group exit and the failure of any European team to reach the semi-finals for the first time.

"It was an amazing tournament and it inspired children. When the northern hemisphere teams went out, they will have seen the brilliance of New Zealand and Australia," he said.

"It can only have brought more young children into the game, but this is where the hard work begins.

"We need investment in the grass-roots game so that when young kids go out there and say they want to be a Pocock or Hooper, there is the coaching there to help them achieve that."

* The QBE Coaching Club is a 2015 legacy initiative made possible by QBE Business Insurance and the RFU. Visit


From Belfast Telegraph