Back still champions the cause of his club and his country

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The Independent Online

They would not include his last appearance there when, in Leicester's Premiership final against Wasps, he smashed Joe Worsley in the mouth. Although he is as fit as a flea on a bucking bronco, Back will not, he says, feel the urge to pick up the ball and run... or even maul.

After service for club and country above and beyond the call of duty, Back is enjoying his new role as head coach of the Leicester academy, where he works with Andy Key, and as defence coach of the senior Tigers, where he works with Pat Howard. "I absolutely love it. I'm so immersed in the whole thing, especially coaching the youngsters. They hang on your every word."

He was having a super weekend in Paris last week, watching the Tiger cubs record a handsome 29-5 win over their counterparts from Stade Français before taking them to the Heineken Cup heavyweight clash between Stade and Leic-ester. The French champions won a torrid, tryless encounter 12-6. "For the first time since retiring I missed not playing," Back said. "It was a bit frustrating. I wanted to get out there."

Back won 66 caps for England - "not bad for someone who was too small" - went on three Lions tours, and spent 15 seasons, mainly at the top, for Leicester, for whom he scored more than 100 tries. He remains their leading try-scorer in league rugby. He became the first England forward in 117 years to score four tries in an international while playing against Holland in 1998 and, against Italy in Rome, became the only Red Rose forward ever to drop a goal in a Test match.

He is, therefore, well qualified to comment on the latest round of infighting between the Guinness Premiership clubs and the Rugby Football Union. Following the Lions tour to New Zealand, the clubs were supposed to rest the travellers for 11 weeks. The RFU claim that Leicester, Sale and Wasps broke the agreement and as a consequence withheld compensation payments of £135,000, a move which has led to the gainful employment of the legal profession.

Even so, the three clubs provide 11 of the 22 players who will be on duty against the Wallabies on Saturday, including the captain, Martin Corry. Leicester were deemed to have broken the "embargo" by playing Corry when he should have been sitting at home in his slippers.

"According to the regulations, the Lions could have played up to half a match in each of the 11 weeks and everything would have been fine," Back said. "On week 11 Martin played 48 minutes and that was eight minutes too long. It's a ludicrous situation. The 11-week break was a good idea and I understand why it's there, but there has to be a degree of flexibility. I can't speak for other clubs, but the point is at Leicester we know how to look after the players. If they're not fit they don't play. We have 27 players capable of starting in the first XV and we rotate them. They have a balanced lifestyle, we look after them and we get things right. I can assure you Martin Corry is not burnt out. All of this will have zero effect on the players. They never think about politics or money."

This will be music to the burning ears of the England coach, Andy Robinson. So too will Back's assessment of the man he often went eyeball to eyeball with when the two hard-nut flankers were slugging it out for Leicester and Bath. "Andy's a first-class coach who has a rapport with the players and that's vital. He's made mistakes but he's admitted them. He's done a couple of things that had they come off would have been seen as revolutionary.

"It's been tough for him and he's under pressure because results haven't gone his way, but I'm not at all concerned. Games that were lost could easily have been won and everything would have looked different. It's a fickle old business. We're ranked sixth in the world and it's important not only that we start winning but that we perform well and play with passion.

"The worst thing that can happen is if we're disorganised. That won't happen. Corry's an excellent leader who has the respect not only of his own players but players around the world. Andy shouldn't be disheartened. We've got to give him time. He's doing a good job."

When Back, Martin Johnson and Lawrence Dallaglio retired from Test rugby they deprived Robinson of England captains and some of the biggest hitters in the game. Dallaglio could be back for the Six Nations in the new year. "If his club form is good and he's back to his best then Lawrence has to be in the shake- up," Back said. "He's world class."

So was Back who, at 36, became the oldest player ever to be selected for a Lions campaign, even if the trek to New Zealand was a tour too far.