- Graham Rowntree believes the time is right to blood young players
- Latest EPS squad announced in early January by new coaching team
Photo: Getty Images
England’s new coaching trio have spent their first weekend assessing the players at their disposal and Assistant Coach Graham Rowntree expects there to be a freshening of the Elite Player Squad with young talent.
Rowntree and Backs Coach Andy Farrell – who led his Saracens side to a 31-26 Heineken Cup victory over the Ospreys at Wembley Stadium – were appointed last Thursday under the leadership of Interim Head Coach Stuart Lancaster and took in a series of frenetic European games.
England’s RBS 6 Nations squad is named in early January and with the next four-year world cup cycle just starting, Rowntree thinks the time is right to blood new players in both the Elite and Saxons squads.
"I think there will be an influx of young talent into the squad," said the 54-capped former England prop.
"I think the time is right, a world cup is different and has different pressures and you’ve got to get that balance right between young and old players.
"But what we have got, as a nation, is some great young players in most positions and I think it’s time for a good number of those people on both squads."
Photo: Getty Images
Although England enjoyed some success in the last 18 months – with a first RBS 6 Nations title in eight years and 10 victories in the last 13 games – Rowntree acknowledges the world cup campaign was a bitter disappointment and wants to move on.
And the 40-year-old believes a youthful feel to the squad is an important part of that process.
"It’s far from all bad but the way the world cup was packaged up, on and off the field, has led to a lot of angst within the rugby community.
"So I want to start again, we’ve got a slate to wipe clean and get a young group of players and start looking forward."
Lancaster has emphasised the importance of getting the culture right in the squad as part of his belief that engaging players in the right environment is central to the performance of elite teams.
Rowntree agrees and outlined the basic principles which will shape the squad when it assembles in January.
He added: "Enjoyment is very important in terms of the guys playing for each other, it’s important that we get that environment right.
"Enjoy each other, work hard and go out there and play exciting rugby.
"What we’re going to do first of all is go out and speak to all the Directors of Rugby because they’re the ones with all the knowledge of the players. Get out and see the players, get into the rugby community and pick the right people for the First and Saxons squads."