- Graham Rowntree wants England’s physicality to scare opponents
- “New Zealand win intensity has to be our benchmark” – Forwards Coach
Given there are more breakdowns that anything else in a game of rugby, there is a natural focus on the tackle area during training at England’s five-day pre-RBS 6 Nations camp in Leeds.
Forwards Coach Graham Rowntree leads on that area in England’s integrated coaching set-up and he is setting high standards after the team displayed a previously unseen level of controlled aggression in the record victory over New Zealand last time out.
Led by towering flanker Tom Wood, who blasted into 39 breakdowns that December afternoon, England forced uncharacteristic errors out of the world champions and Rowntree is aiming to reach a level of physicality that strikes fear into their opponents.
Photo: Getty Images
He said: “We set a level of intensity that we’ve not show before and that now has to be our benchmark going forwards in terms of the breakdown, and especially their breakdown, which is on the back of our line-speed.
“It’s an area where we want to be physically dominant, almost scaring people.
“You want that, so we’ll keep working on it, little and often and in all the sessions. Going into the Six Nations it is a big area of the game, because there are more breakdowns than anything else.
“Our accuracy has got to be good, particularly on our ball, but also on opposition ball because we want to stop them having the juicy quick ball they want.”
A swift appreciation of how each official wants to run the breakdown is crucial to success in modern rugby and, in addition to pre-game meetings with individual referees, Rowntree travelled to London last night to meet IRB referee bosses.
And the value is immediate, with Rowntree, Andy Farrell and Mike Catt shaping today's session accordingly.
Photo: Getty Images
Rowntree said: “Before every competition there are directives the IRB are going to be very tight on, which is always the basics – the tackle area, the scrum. It is invaluable to know what the referees want so we can coach the lads in the right way.
“We’ve already shown them a few clips of what the referees want to see at the breakdown, because we all want quick ball, so we could come out and do specific training today.”
With heavy snow in the north, England have spent the last two days training on a rubber crumb pitch at West Park Leeds Rugby Club, with the main pitch covered in think snow.
And while the groundstaff, volunteers from Leeds University Rugby Club and England management have worked hard to get the grass pitch ready for training tomorrow, Rowntree added that the 3G pitch has been more than sufficient for their needs.
“It’s a great facility,” he added. “We’ve done everything – tackling, tackle competition. Leeds Carnegie played on this very pitch at the weekend, it’s a good surface, it makes everything very accurate.
“In this weather, in the mud, you can lose a bit of accuracy at scrum and lineouts.”