- Graham Rowntree on how England must improve for Ireland
- But Forwards Coach is filled with pride at courage of young side
Graham Rowntree is immensely proud of the “ridiculous” effort England put in to defeat France but says the side must improve further to compete with a superbly well drilled Ireland outfit at Twickenham on Saturday.
Ireland arrive for the RBS 6 Nations finale as the tournament’s top try scorers with 13 tries in their record of two wins, a loss and a draw, which includes a two-point loss to Wales and a creditable draw in Paris.
And Forwards Coach Rowntree has set a tough assignment for Stuart Lancaster’s team – who conceded 11 penalties at the Stade de France – to improve their accuracy around the field while maintaining their abrasive and committed edge.
"We spoke about rising to the challenge in France, and it is a hell of a challenge,” said the 54-cap former England prop.
"And we did in terms of our want to compete with them, our want to win. Our work rate was ridiculous with the amount of tackles – Chris Robshaw 25 tackles, Geoff Parling 20 – and the way we stood up to their set piece.
"It was a big step up [for the players] but we’ve said that on top of that they have to take it up another couple of gears to live with this Ireland team, who are exceptionally well coached technically at the set-piece and breakdown.
"Our own game accuracy has to improve from the France game, and still remain as physical and passionate in the way we play."
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As a front row aficionado, Rowntree was especially pleased with the performances of Alex Corbisiero up against Perpignan rock Nicolas Mas and Dylan Hartley and Dan Cole, who were taken-off at half time on England’s last visit to Paris in 2010.
Discussing the performance of his pack, Rowntree hinted at the driving force behind England’s rapid and continued improvement during the tournament – that the players are continually driving standards.
England lineout general Geoff Parling was disappointed after the game having lost one lineout in nine and Rowntree said: “The driving factor going into the game was making improvements from our last game at Twickenham against Wales.
“We had to be respectful that we were playing against a French team who are always good there, who had been in a world cup final recently. I was very pleased with the work rate of our pack.
"We lost two [lineouts] because our details wasn’t perfect, on each occasion we were half an inch off an immaculate ball. But that will come if we keep driving that accuracy and detail in the working week, and Geoff’s been good at that.
"He is a full-on lineout ‘nause’, a nerd and he’s a pleasure to work with – I’m learning a lot from him too."
Photo: Getty Images
Although Ireland face a third Test on successive weekends, England also face a sharp turnaround before the match on Saturday, with the decreased training time that entails.
Despite this, Rowntree highlighted some key areas to work on, including their "catch-choke tackle", given Declan Kidney’s side have won on three of their last four visits to Twickenham.
He added: "They bring an intensity a lot of areas, not just the set piece as they’re very good at the breakdown and the defensive breakdown, especially with this catch-choke tackle.
"They’ve got a good back row in terms of their tackle technique and tackle decisions in terms of slowing it down and nicking ball. And I also think they’ve got a very physical backline.
"You add to that an immaculate lineout and set piece and we’ve got our hands full."