Back coy on future
May 7, 2011
Leeds boss Neil Back talks to ESPN%]
Neil Back refused to be drawn on his future as Leeds boss in the immediate aftermath of Saturday's 31-24 Aviva Premiership defeat by Northampton Saints.
The loss at Franklin's Gardens leaves Leeds facing relegation to the Championship. They could yet escape the drop if the Cornish Pirates defeat Worcester in the two-legged Championship play-off as they, unlike the Warriors, do not meet the mininum entry requirements for the top flight.
Back does not expect a reprieve, believing that the Warriors will come out on top, but he is remaining tight-lipped on whether he intends to resign when Leeds' fate is finally known.
"My focus now is on getting back into that changing room, getting around the boys and making sure they are okay," he said after the full-time whistle at Northampton. "It is tough to take. We had an incredibly difficult task coming here against the Heineken Cup finalists, with the form and quality they have got in their team. They had more than £1million-worth of players on their bench, and ultimately it made the difference.
"But I am proud of our whole squad, as I have been all year. Leeds have never failed through lack of effort, ultimately it was because we were not good enough collectively. We played well, we executed simple plays very well and put them under pressure. But we haven't converted enough games into wins, and what has happened has happened.
"We were 11 points adrift at Christmas, and to still be in it now is a mark of strong mentality, character and a willingness to give everything, and that is what the team did today."
Saints' Jim Mallinder reacts to his side's victory%]
Leeds had made a sensational start against the Saints, silencing the home crowd with tries from Hendre Fourie, Rhys Oakley and Pete Wackett as they raced into a 24-3 lead inside the opening quarter. However, the Saints came roaring back, racking up tries from Phil Dowson and Chris Ashton either side of a penalty try as they completed a remarkable turnaround to seal fourth place.
"I was disappointed with that first 20 minutes, it was terrible," Saints director of rugby Jim Mallinder said. "Defensively, we were slack and could not keep hold of the ball. We had a serious word in the changing room afterwards. That performance was not acceptable, we should have been better. We were very disappointed. It was quite a long way back from 24-3 down, but it wasn't the time to panic. The second 20 minutes of the first half, we got a bit more control."
Northampton will now meet table-toppers Leicester Tigers at Welford Road in the play-off semi-finals next weekend and Mallinder is looking forward to the challenge ahead.
"Leicester are a quality side, the champions, and very strong at home," he said. "We will be confident. We understand Leicester and we understand their strength, but we've got a good side and we have played well in big games this season. There is no reason why we cannot do that again."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
As Ray McLoughlin prepares to celebrate his 75th birthday, Huw Richards pays tribute to the man and the selectors who had the wisdom to bring him into the Ireland fold
John Taylor argues the world's best XVs players must be given a chance to play in the Olympics to increase the appeal of the game
The All Blacks' form is not a peaking issue, but Hansen must threaten to wield his axe, to demand improvement, Craig Dowd writes
"It has been the World Cup that smashed down the gender barriers of the sport." Tom Hamilton looks back at a remarkable tournament