December 11, 2008
British & Irish Lions Tour Manager Gerald Davies and Head Coach Ian McGeechan announced today at Heathrow the final member of their coaching set up for South Africa - Graham Rowntree.
Davies and McGeechan were speaking at the first of a series of media briefings where they were also sharing their thoughts on the recent Autumn Internationals.
The Lions Head Coach believes that the scrum will be a key battleground for next year's Tour; and so the appointment of Rowntree, the former Leicester Tigers, England and Lions prop is the final piece in the coaching jigsaw for McGeechan. He'll be working alongside assistant coaches Warren Gatland (Forwards), Shaun Edwards (Defence) and Rob Howley (Backs).
Davies said of the appointment "Graham is an unremitting professional who'll bring much to our play against the South Africans. A rugged scrummager in his playing days but with a growing reputation now as a specialist coach he is an important addition to the coaching team."
McGeechan added "I am delighted to have Graham on board. He brings with him a direct approach and an understanding of not only what we are looking to achieve as a coaching group but also an understanding of the Lions ethos. The scrum will be an intensely contested area in South Africa and we'll need to be technically accurate at scrum time from the moment we arrive. It is crucial to have a forward pack that are technically as good as they can be against a renowned set of South African forwards."
Rowntree joined the Lions pair at Heathrow and talked of how eager he was to make this a historic Tour "It is a tremendous honour to be asked to become involved with Geech's coaching set up. Having experienced both the highs and lows of Lions rugby as a player, I am determined to be part of a winning set up in 2009 and am relishing the opportunity to work with the other coaches to make that happen. Geech is someone that I have an enormous amount of respect for and cannot wait to play my part in contributing to a great rugby environment."
England Team Manager Martin Johnson said "On behalf of the England squad I'm delighted for Graham and it's a well deserved honour. Having played alongside Graham for many years at club and international level and having seen him coach the England squad I know what an asset he will be to the British & Irish Lions who he served so well as a squad member in 1997 and 2005. I will give due consideration to replacing Graham for the tour to Argentina."
GRAHAM ROWNTREE - Assistant Coach (Scrum)
Born: 18 April, 1971 - Stockton-on-Tees
Graham Rowntree became the fourth former Lions Test player to join the 2009 Management and Coaching team bound for South Africa when he was appointed Assistant Coach (Scrum) in December, 2008. A veteran of 398 appearances for Leicester Tigers between 1990-2007, he won 54 caps for England as a loose-head prop and also toured South Africa in 1997 and New Zealand in 2005 with the British & Irish Lions. A Grand Slam winner with England in 2003, he was twice a winner of the Heineken Cup with the Tigers and he also won four Premiership titles, two Pilkington Cups and a Courage league crown at club level. He made his England debut as a replacement against Scotland in 1995 and went on to play in the 1995 and 1999 Rugby World Cups. He was chosen for the 1997 Lions tour to South Africa and made his Lions debut in the 18-14 win over Border in East London on 28 May, 1997. He made six non-Test appearances on the tour and finally made his Lions Test bow some eight years later in New Zealand. Having been overlooked for the 2001 trip to Australia, he was one of eight Leicester Tigers players included in Sir Clive Woodward's 2005 squad. He packed down against the Pumas in the pre-tour game and then came off the bench in the last two Tests to add to his international honours. In all, he made 12 appearances for the Lions. As soon as he retired from playing he joined the Leicester Tigers' coaching staff as an assistant coach and he become part of the England National Academy in June 2007. He was appointed an England Specialist Coach in June 2007 and in August 2008 became an Assistant Coach.