- Graham Rowntree talks exclusively to RFUtv in Loughborough
- Assistant coach discusses Leeds camp, Danny Care, Ben Morgan and more
England are preparing for the defence of their RBS 6 Nations title in Leeds and Graham Rowntree believes it is the best place to train for the opener against Scotland at Murrayfield on February 4.
Stuart Lancaster has moved the camp from Portugal to Level 8 Yorkshire Division Two side West Park, and while the meet has a broad on and off the field remit, rugby training is obviously at the forefront.
And with an influx of new players expected and a tough trip to Scotland looming – where England have suffered two defeats and a draw in their last three visits – Rowntree says it’s essential they have the most appropriate conditions to train in.
"Portugal is a great warm weather facility, but we’re going to Leeds instead," the former prop said in an exclusive interview with RFUtv.
"I think it is right in terms of a change, all of this is a new start for me so let’s go somewhere different. West Park has got all the facilities, we’ve checked it out, I hope the weather stays fairly good although we are playing at Murrayfield the week after so if it’s windy and wet it will probably suit the conditions there.
"Overall it is change of venue and it allows local people, press and former players to come and speak to the lads and allowing that kind of access to the squad is another bonus point of us being in the UK."
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As Rowntree mentions, there is work to do off the field too though with a series of high-profile guest speakers – cycling’s Dave Brailsford, cricket’s Hugh Morris, former England captain Phil Vickery and England and Leeds Rugby League captain Jamie Peacock – set to address the players.
This is part of an over-arching aim to, as Lancaster puts it, "reconnect with the grassroots game" and Rowntree says humility for coaches and players is vitally important.
"Top sportsman, and I include coaches in that, have got to show a degree of humility and transparency is something we [coaches] also need when we go into clubs,” he said.
"You’ve got to be able to walk into any club, watch their sessions and they trust you not to go and tell the opposition their lineout moves, for example. They’re big core values for us as coaches and as players."
England’s coaching trio Lancaster, Rowntree and Andy Farrell, name their first Elite Player Squad on Wednesday, January 11 and one potential recruit could be Scarlets No.8 Ben Morgan, who made himself available to the country of his birth on Wednesday.
Rowntree has been watching the Bristol-born 22-year-old closely and is excited about what he can bring to the back row.
He added: "I’m delighted he’s chosen to wear the shirt, I’ve been looking at him for a long time.
"He’s a young man, 22, Bristol-born and an exciting talent. He’s good at lots of things in terms of his athleticism, his contact skills, carrying, good lineout forward – he’s a good package. We’ve got a lot of good resources in those back row slots but he’ll be a good addition, I’m looking forward to working with him."