Rugby Union: Back returns eagerly to the front line: English Barbarian aims to make point against the All Blacks in Cardiff

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The Independent Online
IF, in the euphoria of a famous victory over New Zealand, England are tempted to forget Neil Back their memory will be jogged when he is the only uncapped player among the Barbarians who play the All Blacks at Cardiff Arms Park on Saturday.

The Leicester flanker ended last season as the retiring Peter Winterbottom's heir-apparent, acknowledged as such by Geoff Cooke, the England manager. But finally he was excluded from the back row consisting of three No 8s - averaging 7in taller than his 5ft 10in - which performed superbly at Twickenham.

Yesterday, though, Back was relishing the prospect of an immediate crack at the Blacks to begin his campaign for that elusive cap. 'I'm pleased England won but if you look at the game I don't think it's hampered my chances because you have to ask: should they have won with the penalties they gave away? If New Zealand had had a kicker England would not have won.'

Back, outstanding for the Midlands against the All Blacks and highly regarded by the NZ management, can be excused this minor equivocation. 'I see last Saturday's win as a bit of a setback for me but I hope the selectors have a bit of sense and look at the game closely rather than just the win. I certainly intend to state my case on Saturday. I'm now on a 12-week fitness programme, day by day, up to 4 February, when England play Scotland. That's what's motivating me.'

Back's chance of impressing his national selectors probably depends on the tenuous possibility of the Barbarians' gelling in one training session tomorrow afternoon. But he recognises that, whatever happens in Cardiff, what happens when he gets back to Leicester will be equally important and on Saturday misses the visit to London Irish. 'It wasn't an easy decision but I felt the opportunity to play for the Baa-Baas against New Zealand was one I couldn't miss.'

The Scots begin three weeks earlier than England, against Wales at the Arms Park. Their selectors' response to the 51-15 Test thrashing by the All Blacks was to include all the available members of the beaten Scotland team in a squad of 29 announced yesterday.

That England should go and beat the Blacks one week later has made the debate on the state of Scottish rugby even more agonised, but, as ever, a small rugby-playing population makes alternatives hard to find and the only Test-match absentees from the squad are the injured Craig Chalmers, Ken Milne and Alan Watt.

SCOTLAND SQUAD: Backs: M Dods (Gala), G Hastings (capt), S Hastings (Watsonians), I Jardine, K Logan (Stirling County), S Nichol (Selkirk), A Nicol (Dundee HSFP), B Redpath, G Shiel (Melrose), A Stanger (Hawick), G Townsend (Gala), D Wyllie (Stewart's Melville FP). Forwards: P Burnell, D Cronin (London Scottish), J Hay (Hawick), D Herrington (Dundee HSFP), C Hogg (Melrose), A Macdonald (Heriot's FP), D McIntosh (Pontypridd), D McIvor (Edinburgh Acads), K McKenzie (Stirling County), S Munro (Glasgow High/Kelvinside), A Sharp (Bristol), I Smith (Gloucester), D Turnbull (Hawick), R Wainwright (Edinburgh Acads), P Walton (Northampton), G Weir (Melrose), P Wright (Boroughmuir).

England's Nigel Redman must decide whether to postpone elbow surgery scheduled for five days before Bath's Pilkington Cup fourth-round tie with Wasps on 18 December.

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