Rugby Union: Richards' injury puts Back up

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The Independent Online
Orrell . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

Leicester . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .18

SO the Neil Back Appreciation Society is finally on the threshold of international recognition. By a perverse and extremely painful twist, the Tigers' blond dynamo, whose omission from the England side has provoked a Goweresque outcry, could be handed a first England cap by his club captain, Dean Richards.

The hugely influential Richards sustained a dislocated elbow in Leicester's first League win at Edge Hall Road which, despite his departure, emphasised their credentials as Bath's only plausible challengers for the First Division title. Richards' disablement means he is likely to be sidelined for up to six weeks, and the enforced reshuffle in England's back row could allow Back to win his first cap against Scotland on 5 February.

In the meantime, Leicester have similar problems to ponder before Saturday's fifth round Pilkington Cup encounter against London Irish. With Mark Grant and Simon Povoas injured, Leicester are without a fit or experienced stand-in No 8 for their unfortunate captain.

But they do have Back, who had a hand in the best of Leicester's three tries and, when Orrell sought to exploit Richards' absence with a succession of back row moves, tackled with a vigour and effectiveness well above his stature.

After a sublime start which brought scores from Laurence Boyle and the improving Wayne Kilford, Leicester were forced on the defensive until they sealed Orrell's heaviest-ever home League defeat with a late try by Jez Harris.

Sandwiched between this vivid action, there was little of the vehemence from the Tigers which had left Northampton so badly mauled a week ago or any indication that Orrell possessed the comprehension needed to break down Leicester's well organised cover.

There was also some forgettable goalkicking from Harris and Simon Langford, but it had no effect on the result.

Leicester: Tries Boyle, Kilford, Harris; Penalty Harris.

Orrell: S Taberner (capt); J Naylor, S Langford, M Farr, P Hamer; A Peacock, D Morris; M Hynes, G French, D Southern, C Cusani, C Cooper, P Manley, N Ashurst, D Cleary.

Leicester: W Kilford; T Underwood, S Potter, L Boyle, R Underwood; J Harris, A Kardooni; G Rowntree, C Johnson, D Garforth, M Johnson, M Poole, O Wingham, N Back, D Richards (capt; N Richardson, 27).

Referee: S Piercy (Goole).