- Graham Rowntree and Joe Launchbury talk line outs with RFUtv
- "They’ve got some massive men and we’ve got our hands full" – Rowntree
Graham Rowntree has identified the line out as a key battleground that England must get right against France, who possess the biggest and most varied set of jumpers they will face in the 2013 RBS 6 Nations.
The England Forwards Coach says France have line out threats throughout their pack and has proactively amended his own eight-man unit, bringing back experienced hooker Dylan Hartley and handing Courtney Lawes a first Test start at blindside flanker.
Despite losing their opening two matches, France’s line out has been operating at 86 per cent (losing only four of 25) while England’s is down at 76 per cent, a figure in part mitigated by the difficult conditions during England’s 12-6 win in Dublin.
Rowntree explained how the functioning of a line out relies on the smooth operation of all members of the pack and said it assumes huge significance at Twickenham on Saturday.
Photo: Getty Images
“France’s line out is probably the biggest in the Six Nations, they’ve got line out threats throughout their pack of forwards,” said Rowntree, who will take charge of the Lions forwards in Australia this summer. “On the back of Ireland, there are some things for us to sort out. It was not all down to Tom Youngs, a lot was down to our movement and people not doing the right roles. Going to Dublin in that weather and with that pressure, it was a good learning experience as a line out.
“There’s never a weak French pack. Regardless of their disappointments in the Championship their set-piece is still a rock. Line out, driving line out, scrum: they’ve got some massive men and we’ve got our hands full at the weekend.”
In giving Northampton Saints back row Lawes the start against France, Head Coach Stuart Lancaster acknowledged the 6’ 7” forward’s strength and ability in the air was a significant factor in the decision.
Another key man in that area will be 21-year-old Joe Launchbury, who starts his fifth successive Test match. The London Wasps lock said England have studied the France line out closely and noted Philippe Saint Andre’s team like to compete for the ball by putting a lot of jumpers in the air.
Concurring with his Forwards Coach that the number of options France have will make them difficult to contain, the England Under 20 graduate said: “We’ve done a lot of reviewing of their last two games and we know the threats they possess. Their line out and their scrums have been delivering high percentages and right up there with the best in the tournament.
Photo: Getty Images
“Defensively they’ve got quite a few jumpers, their back rows like to get up in the air, they’ve got options. But on our side we’ve been working hard this week in defence and trying to put as much pressure as we can on them.
“There were a few errors in Ireland, you’re going to get a few in the wet but we made a few mental errors in terms of the calls which we’re trying to iron out.”
While it is easier to be critical from a position of strength – England are the only team who can still win the Grand Slam after two rounds of fixtures – Rowntree says the level of detail and number of small things that can go wrong drives him to despair.
But according to Rowntree England will continue to focus on providing quality, front foot ball and try and keep the momentum they have built up so far in this year’s RBS Six Nations.
“It’s not easy to look critically, it drives me up the wall to be honest because it is lots of little things that we’ve got to be better at,” Rowntree added.
“We want to give good, clean ball to get our backs in motion. Sometimes we’ll drive, sometimes we’ll do different things but we need that platform. It’s been a big focus during the fallow week and this week but all our forwards skills work – breakdown, kick-off receipt, scrum – they’ve all needed a lot of attention this week because those areas have to function against the French.”