- In-depth interview with England Assistant Coach Graham Rowntree on RFUtv
- Former England prop discusses festive rugby, England selection and more
Graham Rowntree is set for a traditionally busy Christmas of rugby and the former England prop explained what he is looking for from potential recruits to Stuart Lancaster’s first senior EPS squad, which is named on January 11.
England’s new coaching trio Lancaster, Rowntree and Andy Farrell are permitted to make 10 changes to the EPS in a Rugby World Cup year – excluding players who have retired or have long-term injuries – and those in the frame will have opportunities to impress.
In an exclusive, in-depth interview with RFUtv, Rowntree explained the exhaustive scrutiny which will take place, both at live games and on computer.
"Faz will continue to do his day job [at Saracens] but feed into us his thoughts on selection and how we want to play,” he said.
"In terms of the watching programme, myself and Stuart are out a lot watching a lot of games. We don’t always go to the games together but on Christmas Eve there’s a massive game with Saints playing Bath and I’m going to the Big Game 4 at Twickenham between Quins and Saracens.
"We’re covering all the games and the games we’re not going to watch we’re downloading to our computers to watch them there. There’s a lot to be seen as there’s some big decisions coming up."
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Clearly the England coaches will be looking for big performances from big players during this period but Rowntree hinted at the other qualities the coaches will be keeping an eye out for, a sense that the individuals have the character and confidence to play their best unhindered rugby at Test level.
The former British and Irish Lion added: “We’re announcing two squads in January and we’ve got to get it right.
"Categorically nothing is decided because we’ve only been together as a coaching trio for a couple of weeks. We’ve spoken tentatively about selection but nothing is set in stone so everything is up for grabs.
"We want players to play the best that they can. I’d like to think that when they come to play for England they just think about playing their best game. Not being shackled by thinking ‘I’m playing for England, I’d better not make a mistake’. We want them to come to us, be excited, be confident and go out there and play as well as they can for their country."
Rowntree also discusses English performances in the Heineken Cup; the differences in approaches from forward packs in Europe; his view on what is or isn’t going wrong at the scrum; and his time coaching for England with the recently departed pair Mike Ford and John Wells.