Crafty flanker gets seal of approval from Grandmaster of gamesmanship
Stade Francais flanker Romain Briatte has gone viral this week, or at least his right hand has, for his antics at a scrum against Lyon in the Top 14.
The flanker has been captured grabbing the laces of opposing scrum-half Baptiste Couilloud as he put the ball into the scrum.
Well the Frenchman has received the seal of approval of former England and Leicester Tigers flanker Neil Back, who is famed for similar antics at a scrum.
The former World Cup winner gave a thumbs up emoji on Twitter this week at Briatte’s craftiness at the scrum, although he has quite a way to go to match Back’s handy work.
Take a look:
— Neil Back MBE (@NeilBack) May 18, 2023
This incident only grows in significance given the context of the match, the season, and of the competition being played.
The affair in question took place in the dying embers of a contest between Leicester Tigers and Munster in 2002, where the Irish outfit, trailing 15-9, had a scrum on their opponents’ five-metre line, a perfect position to launch an attack.
As scrum-half Peter Stringer went to feed the ball in, Back slapped it out of his hands from the flank of the scrum, effectively feeding the ball to his own side, giving them possession and the opportunity to boot the ball down field.
Stringer protested fiercely to the referee, who was attending to the other side of the scrum at the time, and with no assistance from the television match official in those days, there was nothing the men in red could do. With barely any time left, Munster could not launch another attack, giving the win to the Tigers.
This match happened to be the Heineken Cup final at the Millenium Stadium in front of 75,000 fans, in which Leicester were attempting to become the first side to win two titles, and back-to-back wins for that matter. Munster meanwhile were attempting to become champions for the first time, having lost agonisingly in the final to Northampton Saints two seasons before, and in the semi-finals to Stade Francais the year earlier, by one point on both occasions.
Looking back on the incident in recent years, former Munster lock Donncha O’Callaghan is fairly phlegmatic about the incident. “It’s so funny,” he said. “It seems to be the thing that Munster supporters look to as the reason we didn’t win it, but if Neil Back was in our team and he did that we’d love him. Sometimes you have to bend the rules, you have to do whatever it takes, and I think an awful lot of us would nearly admire him for it.”
We can’t let May 25th pass without at least one reference to the famous ‘Hand of Back’ incident.
Here, @stringer9 and @docallaghan4 recall the moment with @andNickMullins.#HeinekenChampionsCup pic.twitter.com/1pgoZNS5pS
— Rugby on BT Sport (@btsportrugby) May 25, 2022