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Back Sets Out The Leicester Stall

Back Sets Out The Leicester Stall

Neil Back puts Leicester Tigers bid to create history and become the first team to win back-to-back Heineken Cup titles as “beyond the No 1 priority – it is that big.”

Neil Back puts Leicester Tigers bid to create history and become the first team to win back-to-back Heineken Cup titles as “beyond the No 1 priority – it is that big.”

The England flanker was outstanding when the Tigers beat Stade Francais 34-30 at Parc des Princes last May to lift the northern hemisphere’s most coveted club silverware and is determined to make sure the holders are present at the Millennium Stadium on 25 May, 2002, to defend their crown.
“The Heineken Cup is the ultimate club competition and, as no-one has managed to successfully defend the title before, that is what everyone connected with Leicester is determined to achieve.”

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The Tigers have strung together a tournament record 10 straight wins since losing 18-11 at Pontypridd in the Pool stages last season. And Lions star Back is adamant that they will be giving Ghial Amatori & Calvisano every respect when the Italian club travel to Welford Road for the Pool 1 match on 5 January as they chase win No 11.

“We have to be mentally right for the Round 5 match with Calvisano,” said 32-year-old Back, who intends playing at the highest level until at least the 2003 World Cup.

“We must win, and win well, and, if Llanelli win in Perpignan – which is not beyond them – and we have to go to Stradey Park in the final round having to beat Llanelli, then that is what we will have to do.
If you want to win the Heineken Cup then you have to play and beat the best sides at some stage of the tournament.
As to trying to retain the trophy, it is certainly harder than winning it the first time – although last season was fantastically hard, both mentally and physically. The Heineken Cup is certainly the hardest club competition I have ever been involved with.”

“In all honesty, in 1997 when we played Brive in the final we got there pretty easily, and that was half the problem on the day. In the end Brive gave us a pretty strong reality check. Since then the tournament has got even tougher, every team now raises their game. We may have won four out of four so far, but there hasn’t been an easy game. We ground out a result in Perpignan – and that was a fantastic achievement in that atmosphere – but in those sort of situations we all still remember last season’s Heineken Cup final victory and what that meant to us. It was very emotional, there were a few tears and for many it was the highest point of their careers.

“I love the competition. When the English clubs were not involved in 1998/9 that was a massive down, all the guys missed it so much. At the moment we are still involved in three tournaments but, if you have a bad five or six-week run, you can find yourself out of the lot. My aim in 2002 is to win every game I play in…starting with those two Heineken Cup matches against Calvisano and Llanelli.

“Things are buzzing at Leicester at the moment and the competition for places is fierce – players kicking lumps out of each other in training. That has to be good for the team.”

Back got two of Leicester’s five tries in the 37-3 win in Calvisano in Round 2 but stressed “our Heineken Cup focus is totally on Calvisano, we never look beyond the next game.”