Premiership - Backy: Top six a stretching target

Eurosport - Fri, 23 Jul 16:58:00 2010

The board of my club Leeds released a statement recently backing Andy Key and I ahead of the new Guinness Premiership season.

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The press statement was fantastic - it had a refreshing honesty to it, highlighting the financial situation the club is in.

However, I must sound a cautionary note: some of the figures released were misleading.

It said that the operational budget had risen from 4 million a year ago to 4.5m this time. But that budget is not just that which is spent on players: it covers the whole finance of the club.

The simple fact is that we will have just over 80,000 more to spend on players this year than last. There was an overspend on players last season, when we did fantastically to finish 10th, which carries over into the new budget.

We spent a lot of that increase in finance getting to where we are now.

There is an expectation that we can finish in the top six this year; but that is a stretching target. We need a lot of things to go well.

We achieved our year one goal of promotion then our year two goal of consolidation, and now we want to drive on.

But we have reduced the squad size substantially - although we have better quality in the team now - and our key players have to stay fit and healthy throughout the season.

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On Saturday we are having an open day to give fans an opportunity to come down and watch the team train and meet our new signings.

There are 11 of those with some prominent names among them, such as World Cup winner Steve Thompson, who has shown strong ambition in going to the World Cup next year with England.

There will then be the opportunity for the fans to get involved in some coaching; it's an initiative we have brought in from the rugby side, rather than the university, to strengthen our links with the fans.

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Peter de Villiers is a very passionate coach. He's done a great job in his time in charge of South Africa.

He's obviously made the comment alluding to referee bias towards the All Blacks while feeling a bit frustrated after the two defeats in New Zealand.

It is understandable: he would have made it because of that passion he has, and for the right reasons. But it is also unprofessional.

In the cold light of day, with the heat out of the situation, he has thought in the right way about it and more or else retracted what he said.

As for his side's match this weekend against Australia in Brisbane, it could go either way.

In Australia's favour is that they have been able to sit in the armchair and analyse the other teams in those games. They must learn from them.

New Zealand are big favourites to win the Tri-Nations, having taken those two bonus-point victories, but while there's games to play and points to be had, it isn't over.

They have had an outstanding start, but - and I'm sure New Zealand fans won't like me saying this - they've gone astray when looking set to win trophies in the past.

If complacency sets in, and factors such as the weather and the interpretation of the laws of the game go against them, they could come unstuck.

Having said that, they are good enough to win every game they play. They played superbly under pressure and were not dragged into a physical battle with the Springboks.

Neil Back / Eurosport

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