Sport-locker.net brings you a Q&A with former England Rugby Union international Neil Back who was speaking on behalf of Brother UK, the leading information, communications and technology brand.
Who is the best player you have played with?
It’s very difficult to single out a player so I’d have to mention two players, Richard Hill and Lawrence Dallaglio. I was privileged to form part of a very successful England back row with them.
Who is the best player you have ever played against?
That is a tough question because rugby is really a team game and it’s quite often a team. So I’m going to answer that by saying the toughest team you’ll play against is New Zealand. They are the current world champions and over time have probably been the best team.
Who is the best player in the world at present?
This is not so tough because the stand out player in world rugby at the moment is Richie McCaw. The fact that he’s captained the world’s best team and current world champions over 100 times and has notched up 137 test matches makes him head and shoulders above anyone at present.
But he would say that it is a team game so he needs those guys around him to make him stand out in the way he does.
Best coach that you have played under?
When I’m asked that question, it’s always the same answer and it’s a guy called Jack Carnell who was my first rugby coach at the age of four. The enthusiasm he gave me for the game, his understanding of the game and coaching techniques he taught me as a youngster, I have carried through my career and into my coaching.
Why is playing rugby for England so special?
As a child I aspired to play for England at rugby, as growing up I played many sports. Walking out with your teammates either in your national stadium like Twickenham, or anywhere else in the world is a very proud thing to do.
What is it like to play at Twickenham?
Twickenham is the home of rugby. It’s where I made my first international schoolboys debut for England Schools against Australia, and coincidentally my last game for England was against Australia in the World Cup final so it brings back very fond memories.
What makes the perfect flanker?
I think you have to have an understanding of all the skillsets required of a forward and a back. You have to have good skillsets including a kicking game and the perfect flanker is the one that tiptoes along the offside law, but rarely gets caught!
How do you rate Chris Robshaw?
I think there are still big question marks over Chris Robshaw as a number seven and also as the England captain, but he’s beginning to answer those questions. I believe his last performance against Australia was his best in the England number seven shirt.
What do you think of Stuart Lancaster?
I think what Stuart has done very well is re-engage the England brand with the fans and with the media. He is beginning to create a winning environment, which has resulted in England currently being a very good team. It’s whether now they can collectively take the step to being a great team.
Do you think Steffon Armitage should play for England?
That’s up to Steffon Armitage actually. We signed an extension to his contract in November knowing that in doing so he would fall outside the current rules that England have put down in terms of being able to represent his country. If those rules weren’t there and we were looking to pick the best 30 players that could represent England, I believe he would be in it.
Who would be in your back row for England’s opening game next year?
I think like all positions in the current England team, they’re up for grabs. Through the Six Nations, whoever has the privilege of wearing the shirt has got to own it and say ‘it is mine’.
What are your predictions for England in the World Cup?
England are one of the teams that genuinely go to the 2015 World Cup that can win it. But only two teams have won seven games on the bounce, which is what is required to win a World Cup, and it’s not us.
We’re currently two on the trot, so we’ve just got the simple task of winning the Six Nations 2015. We do that, seven games on the trot, and we’ve got credibility going in to the World Cup. We’re definitely one that can win it, my heart says we’re going to do it but my head says we’re not quite there.
Who do you think will win the Six Nations?
Before the autumn internationals I would have said England but the performances of Wales but particularly Ireland have outshone anything England have done so they’ll be the form team.
Of course England play both Wales and Ireland away, so it’s going to be tough. If I rip my England heart out of my chest I’d probably say Ireland because of the fact they play England over in Dublin.
Who do you want to see start at fly half?
I think Owen Farrell has done a fantastic job in leading England in the number ten shirt to where they currently are, but there are other guys who I believe have more natural flair that I feel could contribute to England’s success.
Even if Owen Farrell doesn’t play another game in the number ten shirt for England he will have contributed to England success, in building us to where we are. Ford owns the shirt at the moment and a certain player called Cipriani, as well as Marler amongst others, want to take it, so it’s 100% up for grabs.
What do you make of Martin Castrogiovanni’s outburst?
I think it was understandable but unprofessional. There’s no smoke without fire so for a player to pay to get out of his contract, there’s a problem and I’m sure the club will be investigating that as we speak.
What is your opinion on technology in sport?
In every sport it is important to embrace technology. There is of course a danger of overusing it, so it is important to understand how the technology can assist your performance. In rugby we use technology in post match analysis, going through the previous match pass by pass; always looking to improve our game.
Neil Back was speaking on behalf of Brother UK, the leading information, communications and technology brand. Brother UK has been helping businesses work smarter for over 50 years. For more information visit brother.co.uk/