Neil Back: “A captain needs to have been to the edge, and Hartley has done that.”

2 February 2016 - 12:03pm

After being part of the side that defeated his Australia team in 2003, Eddie Jones is a coach you must be fairly familiar with. Do you think he’s the right man to lead England to a six nation’s victory?

To be honest, I’m not that familiar with him. Although he was the opposing head coach in 2003, I wouldn’t have focused on anything that he was personally doing. Of course we focused heavily on the Australia team, and all their players. Together under Sir Clive Woodward we formulated our tactics and plan that defeated them in the final.

Eddie Jones actually joined Leicester Tigers in the 92 season, and a few people have asked me about my recollections of him. But it was a long time ago and he only actually played in 3 games, when I wasn’t in the same team.

What I do know about Eddie is that he’s meticulous in his planning, he’s a bit of a workaholic, and he’s very thorough in his approach. What we’ve already seen is he’s shaking things up in the England camp with his initial squad selection, as well as having them train 3 times on the first day of training.

What I like about Eddie so far, is that he’s a straight talker. One quote of his I really liked was “It’s me that picks the team, not the press.” And that encapsulates what think Eddie Jones is about. He’s not there to win friends in the media, he believes in his philosophy of how he wants to play the game and stays true to that.

Leading the England side out on the field is Dylan Hartley. In your opinion, considering his past disciplinary problems, do you think he sets a good example for the rest of the team?

I’m a massive believer in looking ahead rather than looking back. The facts are that Dylan Hartley is 29 years of age, he’s been a first class player for a decade and over that time he will have played between 200 and 300 first class games. He’s got 6 disciplinary issues against his name and that shows he does get in a bit of bother. However, I wouldn’t like to see someone as captain that’s not been to the edge and if you don’t tip over it sometimes, you don’t know where that edge is.

For me there was no clear stand out player in the search for England captain, and what Eddie Jones has done is gone for an experienced player with 68 caps. People call in to question his disciplinary issues – but a good friend of mine Martin Johnson took on the England armband at the same age, I and I think if there was a video ref looking over every part of the game during the majority of his career, his rap sheet would be on par or longer than Dylan Hartley’s. Like I said earlier, it’s important for a captain to have been to the edge, and I support Eddie Jones and his assistant coaches’ choice.

Recently, Sam Warburton has been quoted as saying that the RBS 6 Nations is the tournament you feel most privileged to be involved in. Would you agree?

Certainly in the northern hemisphere it’s a very important competition and the one you look out for when you aspire to be an international and it’s a tournament with a tremendous history that goes back decades.

It’s a fantastic tournament and there’s a lot of excitement around it, so it’s an honour to picked to play for your country in the 6 Nations.

I’m glad that the authorities have not taken on the bonus point scheme for these games. Three teams play three at home and two away. The others play two at home and three away – so it wouldn’t be fair to have a bonus point system.

How do you fancy England’s chances in the tournament?

England are a team that have unfortunately this year only got two home games. In the opening fixture Scotland will certainly be full of confidence at Murrayfield on the back of their world cup form, which will be a challenge for England.

If England can get off to a winning start like Lancaster did with his team way back in 2012 with a 13-6 win that will do for this first game. Of course there’s no easy games, but although the second game is away it’s against Italy. With all due respect to Italy, you would expect to win that game. If we can edge past Scotland and beat Italy we will be off to a good start and that form could buoy us in the next two home games. It’s all about confidence.

What are your predictions for the first 3 games?

  • France vs Italy
    • I expect France to win at home
  • Scotland vs England
    • Obviously I’m never going to go against England, so I’ll say England to overcome Scotland away at Murrayfield.
  • Ireland vs Wales
    • I expect Ireland to overcome Wales at home.

Thanks for your time, Neil! Any final thoughts on the upcoming 6 nation’s tournament?

I wish Eddie Jones the best of luck alongside Steve Borthwick and Paul Gustard. I think they’re a great team of coaches and I hope it goes well for them.