- Graham Rowntree and Dan Cole discuss the development of England's pack
- "Our breakdown has to set a tone for who we are" – England forwards coach
Graham Rowntree wants his mobile, accurate forward pack to set the tone for who England are – and that starts with repelling the physicality and emotional intensity of Argentina on Saturday.
While pleased with aspects of the victory over Australia in the opening QBE International last weekend – especially composure under pressure – the England forwards coach insists the pack have “got another couple of levels to go up.”
There are many facets to forward play in the modern game but, in addition to precise delivery from the set-piece, England want to be renowned for how they protect and compete for the ball at the tackle area.
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The frequency of breakdowns – there are between 200-250 in a Test match – brings them in to sharp focus, as Rowntree explains.
“Our set-piece has to be immaculate to deliver good ball but for me it’s about the breakdown,” said the British and Irish Lions forwards coach. “There are more breakdowns than anything else in the game and our breakdown has to set a tone for who we are as a group.
“That’s having 3.6 second rucks – as we had last week [against Australia] – on our ball and that’s making sure they don’t have that speed of ball. When people speak about England at the breakdown, I want to them to say 'You’ll get nothing from them easily .'”
Stuart Lancaster’s squad demand high standards from all those around them – Rowntree says it is intrinsic in their culture – in a quest to reach their potential by Rugby World Cup 2015.
England gleaned five penalties from seven put-ins at the scrum and no one in the starting forward pack missed a tackle – which allied to the ruck speed outlined above – paints a positive picture for the eight-man unit in their first game together since March.
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But for 41-cap tight head Dan Cole, Rowntree’s most experienced lieutenant, it was only a six-out-of-ten performance.
“You have high standards because that’s international rugby,” said the Leicester Tigers man.
“We have to increase our accuracy on our ball at lineout and set-piece time and put more pressure on the opposition. You want your forward pack to boss things, that’s the gradual increase you want as you play together more.
“The strength of the English game has always been the forwards play, you can’t just play through the forwards and be that one dimensional but we’ve matched or bettered a lot of teams over the last couple of years.
“We’re not too far away from being one of the better packs in the world; that’s where you need to be if you want to win things.”
Winning trophies starts with winning Test matches and new Argentina coach Daniel Hourcade’s experienced Pumas are the next challenge at Twickenham Stadium. The visitors are missing two key personnel from the pack – Rowntree regards tight head Juan Figallo and open side Juan Fernandez Lobbe as two of the best around – and because of that are even more likely to revert to type.
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For Cole, that means a busy afternoon in the tight: “They pride themselves on the set-piece. In the Rugby Championship, the way they scrum, the way they lineout, the way they drive the maul – they played to their traditional strengths.
“And they’re very good at it. If they can win at Twickenham, it will be historic for them, so they’ll be up for the challenge.”
Matching the pride and passion Argentina pour into all they do around the field is the minimum criteria for England on Saturday, but Rowntree concluded that that principle rings true whoever the opposition may be – remember, no one is to get anything easily from England.
“We try to quell the emotional dominance that every team is seeking against us,” he added. “It’s so important and that’s why I want us to be good at the dynamic elements of the game.”