- England Forwards Coach buoyed by resilience in Dunedin
- “Pace and intensity was a reality-check” – Rowntree
England Forwards Coach Graham Rowntree admits New Zealand’s post-half-time blitz in Dunedin provided a stark reality-check, but insists his side’s late comeback showed they can cope with the All Blacks at their very best.
While England head to Hamilton 2-0 down in the series, they can be buoyed by two performances that troubled the world champions at times. At Forsyth Barr Stadium last weekend, some precise, powerful mauling work in the early stages helped establish a 10-0 lead.
Photo: Getty Images
That advantage could easily have been extended before the break too. However, New Zealand weathered some sustained pressure to reach half-time only 10-6 behind, before launching into a series-clinching 20 minute-spell that yielded three tries.
Still, battling back through scores from Mike Brown and Chris Ashton, England showed immense character to end the contest within a point at 28-27 – a resurgence that tempered Rowntree’s disappointment.
“We’re frustrated,” he explained. “The lads were pretty down after the game and the biggest thing we’ll have taken was the stark realisation of the pace it was played at – the pace of top-class intensity.
“In the third quarter, New Zealand were white-hot. We stayed with them and came through that sticky period but there are plenty of things we have to learn as a forward pack. I couldn’t have asked any more from them in terms of energy.
“A lot of [what we will try to improve] is detail under pressure and fatigue. That is what we are learning here and we’ll get better. Then we’ll be a tough team to beat.
“We took our chances well with those two tries we scored late on. Ultimately, we needed more points on the board before that third quarter.
Photo: Getty Images
“If Manu had scored from that breakaway it becomes 17-3 and there is a different complexion to the game. But it was a stark reality-check in terms of game intensity. The encouraging thing was that we can live with it.”
Clearly set on rousing his charges for one last tilt at the All Blacks, Rowntree discussed his options for Saturday, sparing special praise for the tireless Geoff Parling.
Though their effort could not prevent another agonising reverse, England’s forward replacements also made an impact in Dunedin – something Stuart Lancaster and his fellow coaches have taken into account.
“We haven’t finalised selection but I was delighted with the young props. Kieran Brookes scrummaged really well on Test debut and so did Matt Mullan.
“Then you have players of the class of Dylan Hartley, Courtney Lawes and Billy Vunipola. They all added to the energy.
“Geoff Parling made 21 tackles. Again, he backed up from his performance the week before. I actually challenged him to do it again and his energy around the field was outstanding. Now he’s got to better.”