- Rowntree discusses Wales' world class front row with RFUtv
- In Cole and Corbisiero England are growing a comparative pair – Rowntree
Graham Rowntree considers Wales’ front row to be world leaders but is confident England are developing a pair of props that can challenge them in the RBS 6 Nations clash at Twickenham.
As ever, the contest up front is expected to be a key factor on Saturday as both sides put their unbeaten records on the line and while Warren Gatland’s side will be without injured Lions hooker Mathew Rees, Gethin Jenkins and Adam Jones loom large either side of debutant Ken Owens.
Rowntree worked with the "world class" pair on the British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa in 2009 and says they fulfil all the criteria for modern-day, potent operators in the tight and the loose.
The 54-time England prop said: "They are good at lots of things – play dynamically, good defenders, good set-piece players but we’re growing some of those in our team as well.
"It will be a good test of where we are, not just as a front row but also as a forward pack."
Photo: Getty Images
Continuing to discussing the performances of 12-cap England loosehead Alex Corbisiero to date in the Six Nations, Rowntree added: "He’s has some big challenges in the last couple of weeks the kid, Euan Murray (British Lion) and Martin Castrogiovanni (world-class) and he's done well in all encounters.
"His all round game is improving as well, he was in Italy chasing back in our 22 retrieving loose balls in the 65th minute of the game. I’m delighted with how he is coming on, he’s not the finished article, he knows that but the beauty of this group is they’re very willing to learn."
England’s No.3 Dan Cole has spoken about his admiration for Jenkins’ work in the loose but Rowntree believes the tighthead is improving steadily in the "toughest position on the field" in his own right. He says the 24-year-old is adding the tackling, ball-carrying and ball-stealing skills to his already exemplary scrummaging.
"Dan is learning with experience – tighthead prop is the toughest position on the field in terms of workload but these days they’ve got to be good tacklers and good defenders.
"But also Dan is one of our best ball-stealers on the floor when the opposition have got it, his timing of when to try and steal the ball and win a penalty is pretty good. In Italy he carried the ball five times as well – he’s developing nicely."
Photo: Getty Images
In the new England management set-up Rowntree’s remit has been extended to all forward play and as such he has developed himself – into a self-proclaimed "lineout and stats nause".
And although England’s lineout stats are encouraging – winning nine from 11 in Edinburgh and 14 of 17 in Rome – Rowntree wants the quality of ball his pack are delivering and their collective tempo to improve against Wales.
"My issue with our lineout, as I keep saying to the lads, is the quality of the ball we are delivering and the tempo at which we operate, [it’s] something we’re still trying to work on.
"That was hard in Italy as the ball was covered in sleet, so we had the hooker drying the ball for too long while the guys were all waiting for it to go in. We’ve played against two heavy weight, good lineout packs and our stats don’t lie.
"But it’s the quality of the stuff we are producing that we’re working on."