Neil Back: England will be driven on by title agony

 

Neil Back believes England will ultimately benefit from missing out on the Six Nations title, but warns only the Grand Slam is acceptable next year.

Points difference alone sabotaged red-rose hopes of claiming the first Championship crown of Stuart Lancaster’s reign with Ireland’s success resulting in a third consecutive runners-up finish.

Back, a World Cup winner and England’s openside flanker between 1994 and 2003, is encouraged by the progress made during the Six Nations and views the failure to win the title as a blessing.

But with the 2015 World Cup on home soil looming, he insisted England must crush their European rivals next year if they are to be considered genuine contenders.

“Perversely, not winning the Six Nations may have been a good thing because it means the hunger is still there,” Back said.

“Sometimes when a young team win things they can start to gravitate, but this team is still very well grounded. Not winning the Six Nations will have made them even hungrier for next year, and that’s the important one because it’s a World Cup year.

“It’s crucial that England win next season’s Six Nations and the Grand Slam too, to take them into the World Cup. If you want to win the World Cup you must win seven matches and if you can’t defeat Six Nations teams ranked below, then we’ll have a problem winning the World Cup.

“This is a really exciting time and I’m genuinely excited about this England team for the first time since I was last involved.”

Back, who won 66 caps and made five Test appearances for the British and Irish Lions, has been impressed by the development of Chris Robshaw.

Robshaw entered the season with his status as first-choice openside and England captain under threat, but responded with a string of outstanding performances that have placed his position beyond challenge.

“Rightly Chris was left out of the Lions tour to Australia last summer because he wasn’t the best in his position,” Back said. “But he’s gone away, decided that he needs to improve and has worked on those areas.

“There’s been a significant change in his foot speed away from contact and his lines of running. Due to his inexperience the captaincy was a burden, but he’s getting there and is a million miles from where he was two years ago.”

England’s next assignment is a three-Test series in New Zealand and Back views a 2-1 series defeat as a worthy outcome.

“The series begins after the first Test because England will be missing their Premiership finalists, so that game is more of a warm-up,” Back said. “Then the Test series really begins in my eyes and if they can draw that, then they’ll come home with their heads held high. If they manage that, it would be a big statement. Any less than that and we are where we should be, ranked fourth in the world.”

Meanwhile, work on European club rugby’s new elite tournament will be put on hold over the weekend and resume on Monday.

The replacement for the Heineken Cup was expected to be unveiled this week, but it is understood that administrative elements of the agreement have yet to be finalised, resulting in the delay.

Once the paperwork is complete an announcement will be made, with Monday the earliest possible opportunity to declare a ceasefire in the bitter two-year dispute over Europe.

A further delay could be caused by the rugby calendar, however, with the Heineken Cup quarter-finals scheduled to take place next weekend.

European rugby chiefs may decide to hold any announcement until the first knockout round is over out of respect to the competition as it nears its conclusion.

A new 20-team format is expected to have six Premiership teams, six clubs from France’s Top 14 competition and seven of the PRO12 sides qualifying for a competition that would succeed the Heineken Cup.

The final place would be decided after a play-off between this season’s seventh-placed finishers in the Premiership and Top 14.

It is understood an agreement is imminent. Once signed all parties can then chase a resolution between broadcasters BT Sport and Sky, both of whom have  indicated a willingness to agree a compromise TV rights deal.

The Six Nations committee is expected to provide the basis of the new governing body, with some existing European Rugby Cup staff retained.

BUY RUGBY WORLD CUP TICKETS

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
peopleComedian launches stinging attack on PM
Life and Style
The collection displayed Versace’s softer side, with models wearing flowers and chiffon dresses in unusual colourings
fashionVersace haute couture review
News
Andy Murray shakes hands after defeating Andreas Seppi of Italy in the third round of Wimbledon, Saturday 4 July, 2015
Wimbledon
Arts and Entertainment
'The Leaf'
artYes, it's a leaf, but a potentially very expensive one
News
Yoko Ono at the Royal Festival Hall for Double Fantasy Live
people'I wont let him destroy memory of John Lennon or The Beatles'
News
Could Greece leave the EU?
news
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'