- Forwards Coach hails progress of England pack during 2012 RBS 6 Nations
- Front row will go on and do great things – Rowntree
In the second part of our interview with the England Forwards Coach, Graham Rowntree discusses the individuals in his pack who exceeded all expectations as they ended the 2012 RBS 6 Nations in dominant fashion against Ireland.
After discussing the evolution of his eight and delivering a glowing testimony to Stuart Lancaster in part one, Rowntree talks about the demonstrable improvement of individuals, admitting even he was surprised at just how dominant his front row were against an Ireland scrum boasting 306 caps.
Alex Corbisiero, Dylan Hartley and Dan Cole played with expertise beyond their young years and repeatedly had Declan Kidney’s scrum back-pedalling as the match wore on securing a penalty try in the second half.
"I am delighted," a visibly proud Rowntree told RFUtv of his front row. "I was very surprised with their performance against Ireland if I’m honest with you. Very pleased, but the demolition – I can’t think of a better word – in certain scrums at certain points of the game, I was surprised at.
"But in terms of their coachability, I’m not surprised because they are a very coachable group of men who are going to go on and do great things.
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"And it’s been pleasing, particularly with somebody like Corbs who did exceptionally well against Euan Murray, Castrogionvanni and then against Wales at home against Adam Jones he had a tough time on a couple of occasions. But then to bounce back and perform very well in France against Nicolas Mas and then Mike Ross is very pleasing for Corbs.
"But he knows that he is not the finished article and that he has got to keep pushing on with that development and setting high standards for himself."
The 57-Test cap loosehead also praised Hartley and Cole who he said had developed immeasurably over the tournament.
Behind a dominant front row, Rowntree described Geoff Parling’s "infectious enthusiasm" for lineouts and said he, as a coach, had simply facilitated the second row work of Parling, Tom Palmer and Mouritz Botha in training.
And speaking about the blonde-haired Saracens Lock, Rowntree said the "dizzy" 30-year-old had been in excellent form over the Championship.
"He is a pleasure to work with. He’s a character around the group," the former Leicester Tigers and England prop said. "He keeps the energy up in training but he’s the cement in the whole pack of forwards.
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"He does a lot of the unseen work – you won’t appreciate how much pressure he puts in terms of his chargedowns, his tackle stats, his scrummaging work and his lineout work."
The pack had been led extremely well by Harlequins captain Chris Robshaw who had just one cap to his name when Interim Head Coach Stuart Lancaster chose him to lead England.
Describing Robshaw, who repeatedly topped the tackle stats throughout the Six Nations, as selfless, Rowntree said the flanker led by example and let his performances on the pitch do the talking as England won three away games in the tournament for the first time in their history and finished as runners up behind Grand Slam winners Wales.
Rowntree added: "He does a lot of unseen work. His numbers, tackles are always high but he is effective at rucks, his support, he is often top of the ball carrying stats as well just making hard yards.
"But I think he has brought to his game great handling opportunities in a game on top of his selfless work and he has led extremely well as the captain of the team because I think the guys have brought into him as a player. He’s not had to worry about what he’s saying all the time. They are just following his example and the way he plays the game."
A thoughtful Rowntree is optimistic about the future of the England pack and believes many young players, including Gloucester-bound No.8 Ben Morgan, have plenty more to come. It’s an exciting prospect for the former England stalwart.