Back expecting the drop
May 8, 2011
Neil Back consoles his players after their defeat to Northampton © Getty Images
Leeds boss Neil Back expects his side to be playing in the Championship next season after tipping Worcester to win promotion to the top flight.
Leeds' battling 31-24 defeat to Northampton on Saturday left them propping up the Premiership table on points difference below Newcastle, although their fate will not be decided until the conclusion of the two-legged Championship final between the Warriors and Cornish Pirates.
If the Pirates win the play-off - the first leg is in Penzance on Wednesday night - then Leeds will stay up as only Worcester meet the minimum Premiership entry criteria. Richard Hill's Warriors survived a scare against Bedford in the semis, winning by a point, but Back does not expect them to falter now.
"I didn't watch Worcester's semi-final game against Bedford but I think that has been their scare," he said. "I think they have too much quality in their team that they won't let it happen again. Over two games I can only see one winner. My money, if I was a betting man, would be with Worcester."
Leeds have already begun planning for life in the second tier next season and Back will meet with chief executive Gary Hetherington this week to discuss the future.
Steve Thompson (Wasps), Kearnan Myall and Luther Burrell (both Sale Sharks) and Ceiron Thomas (Cornish Pirates) are already confirmed departures from Headingley, while a number of other players, and Back, could follow them through the door.
"I will be meeting with Neil Back on Wednesday, as we would do at the end of any other season, to review the campaign and the areas where we have fallen short," Hetherington said. "The board will then approve the budget for next season and we will be planning for life in the Championship regardless of the play-off final result.
"Compared with our previous two relegations, we are in a much stronger position with over 20 players contracted for next season, a dozen players out of contract and only three players who have release causes in the event of relegation.
"We have a debt of £2million that we need to begin repaying that has been amassed over the past two years. We will go into the Championship aiming to bounce back at the first opportunity but realise the challenge that is in front of us."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Jim Mallinder and Justin Burnell were sat on the same top table, but in different circumstances. Tom Hamilton reports on the Aviva Premiership season launch
Tom Hamilton reports back from the launch of the Guinness PRO12 where there is a renewed sense of optimism with all of the off-field changes to the league
So much for the great Australian revival, writes Greg Growden. It now has the potential of going off the rails after the capitulation at Eden Park
The latest Week in Pictures takes in photographs from the Rugby Championship, the Top 14 and the southern hemisphere domestic scene