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I’m Not A Cheat – Neil Back

I’m Not A Cheat – Neil Back

Leicester flanker Neil Back has voiced his concern that his reputation may have been damaged over the incident in the Heineken Cup final when his ‘sleight of hand’ robbed Munster of possession.

It will be recalled that in the dying moments of the Heineken Cup final, Munster were awarded a scrum under the Leicester posts. Back, after a quick recce to see where referee Joel Jutge was positioned, slapped the ball out of Peter Stringer’s hands and into the safety of the Leicester scrum.

Now, on mature reflection, Back wishes (sorta) that he hadn’t done it !

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“In a way, I wish I hadn’t done it,” said Back, referring to the illegal act of slapping the ball out of Munster scrum half Peter Stringer’s hands as he went to feed a last-minute scrum in front of the Leicester posts with the holders defending a 15-9 lead.

“I have to be honest about it. I don’t like people thinking I’m a cheat. I don’t want that slur. I’m not a cheat. I had a lot of mail over that incident, mostly negative. There were letters saying I was a cheat, some of them from Leicester fans, which was a bit hurtful. If people wanted to make me feel bad about what happened, they have. That’s disappointing and I know it upset my wife, Alison. If I thought there was any possible way of redressing it, I would consider it. I regret it because I don’t like to think that, because of that one incident, there are people who think I’m a cheat.”

“It has tarnished my reputation. In making any judgment, I would hope people will evaluate me over my whole career and not label me on that one moment. It happened spontaneously. I weighed the options up in a split-second and did what I did.”

He said: “As far as dirty play is concerned, I’m as clean as you can get. I’m very competitive and I will do almost anything to win, but I will not do anything dirty. I play hard and get stuck in. The stats for last season show I only gave away a penalty every other match. That’s pretty clean considering back-row players tend to give away a lot of penalties.”

With regard to the future Back said: “The World Cup is out there but my goal is to play in the No 7 shirt for Leicester, week in, week out. I don’t want to say I’ll retire after the World Cup, because if I’m still passionate about playing then why not continue?”