- England forwards coach challenges pack to be a major force
- “Australia are a battle-hardened southern hemisphere team” – Rowntree
Graham Rowntree may have spent the summer masterminding the British and Irish Lions' series win over Australia, but says England’s pack will have to bring enormous intensity to prevail at Twickenham on Saturday.
Like Stuart Lancaster, Rowntree has been impressed with the manner in which new head coach Ewen McKenzie and assistant Jim McKay have given the Wallabies new-found belief and cohesion.
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Citing the agonising 20-14 defeat a year ago, England’s forwards coach stressed that anything less than full focus and fierce physicality would almost certainly lead to a similar set-back.
“The closeness of the game and the ease of their tries last year [angered me],” he said. “We gifted them their tries.
“We didn’t handle the refereeing of the scrum very well, either, and there were situations where we could have had tries as well. Thomas Waldrom was a couple of inches from the line on two occasions, so to not have anything after the game after that was disappointing.
“It was a steep learning curve, especially in the breakdown department. They gave us a good workout there which kicked us on.
“This time round, our levels of breakdown intensity have to be up to that from the start – they are a battle-hardened southern hemisphere team and we’ve got to make sure we have good ball to play off at set-piece and speed of ball at the breakdown.
“We’ve also got to make sure we stop them having the same.”
Photo: Getty Images
Although Australia captain James Horwill has insinuated in the press that England’s scrum may suffer as a result of not having played together as an eight under the new laws, Rowntree downplayed that issue.
England’s recent training camp in Leeds and the subsequent sessions at Pennyhill have included live-scrummaging, while each one of the front-rowers in Lancaster’s 23 have become accustomed to the different sequence in the Aviva Premiership and European competitions.
And with a pivotal trio of QBE Internationals starting this weekend, Rowntree urged the likes of Tom Youngs, Dan Cole, Joe Launchbury and captain Chris Robshaw to establish themselves as a significant force at international level.
“These next three games will be a good test of where we are in terms of our development,” he added.
“We’ve got to reach a point where we are stopping being a young pack and become ‘the business’. On these three weekends, the intensity we bring will have a major impact on who wins.”