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Rowntree: These games are why you play rugby

08 June 2012

  • Graham Rowntree reveals what he'll be telling the team in moments before kick-off
  • "The crowd is on top of you and will be baying for blood" – Forwards Coach

Graham Rowntree surveyed the steep banks of Durban’s magnificently old-fashioned Kings Park and delivered a stirring message for his players before they face the Springboks in the first Test.

The England Forwards Coach, who faced South Africa in South Africa once during the course of his 54-Test international career, said he’ll tell the team there is nothing better that coming to tough, uncompromising stadiums to play tough, uncompromising teams and emerging victorious.

Rowntree, who also coached with British and Irish Lions on their 2009 tour to South Africa said: “The beauty of this stadium is that the crowd are on top of you and there’s certainly going to be enough of them.

England Forwards Coach Graham Rowntree at a training session in Durban

Photo: Getty Images

“It’ll be warm, good atmosphere and the crowd baying for blood, I’ve tried to tell the lads ‘that’s what you play rugby for.’

“In this environment, away from home, with the odds stacked against you, that’s what drives you as a player internationally and that’s certainly what drove me. So I’ll be reminding them of what a good feeling it is to win in such an environment.”

Stuart Lancaster’s side have a stern task on their hands given the fact that after seven straight wins over the Springboks between 2000 and 2006, England have lost the next seven – the most recent a bruising 21-11 defeat at Twickenham in November 2010.

For Rowntree, England’s attitude will be the key factor in reversing that run, given the intensity and physicality South Africa bring to every rugby match they play.

Believing England can emerge with a famous victory if they stay with the Springboks into the final quarter, he added: “I’m sure our guys will match South Africa’s intensity and physicality as we’ve spoken about it, at length.

South Africa prop Tendai Mtawarira runs at England wing Chris Ashton in November 2010

Photo: Getty Images

“But you never know what’s coming and this week has been all about preparing for everything they’ll throw at us, dealing with it is a different matter.

“I think it will be a tight game, if we’re in it at the end, there’s a chance of us winning a famous victory here. We’re probably better prepared for it than any other game this calendar year, but we have to match that physicality and better it.

“Attitude wise, they’re not going to go in with any trepidation. We respect these guys, but we certainly won’t be scared of them.”