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VIDEO – Rowntree expects immense challenge from France pack

29 January 2014

  • England Forwards Coach buoyed by individual performances in Heineken Cup
  • France will be “world class” despite Dusautoir's absence, says Rowntree

England Forwards Coach Graham Rowntree says the enforced absence of France captain Thierry Dusautoir does not diminish the gigantic task his pack will still face on Saturday in Paris.

Dusautoir, Les Bleus’ captain and effervescent flanker, has been ruled out of the entire RBS 6 Nations with a biceps injury – a significant blow for Phillipe Saint-André given the phenomenal form of his talismanic skipper during Toulouse’s powerful Heineken Cup victory over Saracens earlier this month.

However, Rowntree was quick to highlight the other options France have, singling out an influential showing from Yannick Nyanga during England’s 23-13 win at Twickenham last season.

“Having lost Dusautoir they probably bring Nyanga in,” he explained. “[Damien] Chouly is there and [Luis] Picamoles is back in the mix as well. They are world-class players. Their view on the game and the breakdown in particular is the same as Dusautoir’s. It’ll be hard work for us.

Yannick Nyanga

Photo: Getty Images

“This time last year they’d had an indifferent start and they came to Twickenham. They brought Nyanga in for that game and Dusautoir had the game of his life – perhaps his best since the World Cup final.

“They made life very challenging for us in the first 20 minutes in particular, stealing ball and winning penalties.”

Picamoles and Nyanga were especially prominent alongside Dusautoir as Saracens were swept aside 21-11 just over a fortnight ago – racking up 14 tackles and 25 tackles between them, as well as spoiling numerous attacks with some very powerful work on the floor.

But while admitting to having scrupulously analysed the game at Stade Toulousain, Rowntree said many Anglo-French ties over the current Heineken Cup campaign has given him more reason to be optimitistic.

“People have mentioned how English clubs have lost to the French ones in Europe and ask whether that will affect us,” he continued. “I look at it a different way – I look at the individual performances of our players in those games.

“Billy and Mako [Vunipola] were exceptional for Saracens in Toulouse. Joe Marler was brilliant [for Harlequins] in both Clermont games and both [Racing] Metro games.

Joe Launchbury scores

Photo: Getty Images

“Leicester Tigers beat Montpellier home and away – Tom Youngs and Dan Cole were prominent in those games. Saints beat Castres very well with a forward-dominant performance. I am buoyed by the individual displays of our guys.”

Pinpointing discipline and judgment at the breakdown as key areas for his pack ahead of their campaign-opener at Stade de France, Rowntree finished with a glance at the QBE Internationals.

Having scored four tries – through Joe Launchbury (twice), Chris Robshaw and Ben Morgan – England’s forwards showed themselves to be an attacking force during fixtures against Australia, Argentina and New Zealand. However, Rowntree is demanding more.

“It was to get that carrying going because you’ve to have every tool available to you. Against New Zealand we were 22-20 up and let the game go after some key errors in my department – we dropped the ball at a lineout and they scored two phases later.  

“There’s still a lot more to come.”