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VIDEO – Rowntree looks to blunt familiar Welsh threats

05 March 2014

  • England Forwards Coach demands scrum improvements 
  • “I know the Welsh forwards inside-out” – Rowntree

After working with the vast majority of the Wales pack over the past two British and Irish Lions tours, Graham Rowntree possesses precious inside knowledge on England’s opponents this weekend. Conversely however, that also makes him acutely aware of how tough the task at hand will be.

Having overseen the Lions forwards on trips to South Africa in 2009 and Australia last summer, Rowntree has coached every one of Wales’ likely starting pack with the exception of towering lock Luke Chartertis.

And while that may offer some benefits as England look to secure a Triple Crown at Twickenham on Sunday, Stuart Lancaster’s lieutenant reiterated the ferocious challenge that lies in wait from a side chasing three RBS 6 Nations Championship wins in a row. 

Warren Gatland and Graham Rowntree

Photo: Getty Images

“It’s a luxury for me,” Rowntree said. “I know those players inside-out. I enjoyed working with them, too. We had a good time on what was a tough tour [to Australia] and I was immensely proud of how the players finished that third Test. 

“I’ve got a lot of respect for them and a lot of them I have worked with before that – people like Adam Jones and Alun-Wyn Jones. They’re true professionals and what this Wales team has won over the past years is testament to that.

“It’s an advantage knowing their players but it won’t be a distraction from our preparation because essentially it’s about what we do and getting the best preparation possible. But to know their strengths and weaknesses – they haven’t got many by the way – is an advantage for us.”

Applauding a resurgent performance in Cardiff last Friday night – which saw Warren Gatland’s men erase the memory of a 26-3 loss to Ireland by thrashing France 27-6 – Rowntree suggested that back-row trio Sam Warburton, Toby Faletau and Dan Lydiate would drive another dynamic display.

However, turning back to a problem that blighted the 13-10 win over Ireland, he also stressed that improvements to England’s scrum are utterly essential – especially opposite props Jones and Jenkins, who boast 205 Test caps between them.

“Our scrum was the work-on,” Rowntree added, clearly frustrated with a return of just five successful set-pieces from nine put-ins. “We had a guy playing with just 47 minutes of rugby behind him [David Wilson] but that’s not an excuse – he was ready. 

Adam Jones

Photo: Getty Images

“I expected more from the unit around him but I’m pleased with how we came out of the game because we were under a lot of pressure in the third quarter. We came back quickly and set the pace, which Ireland struggled to live with.

“We have to respect Wales’ experience and nous – those props have accrued a lot of caps and we’ll have to match their guile there if we are going to beat them on Sunday.”

Finally, Rowntree touched on the emotional significance of this match in light of what happened to England at the Millennium Stadium a year ago – a 30-3 thrashing that obliterated any designs on a Grand Slam and left a lingering sense of hurt.

“We speak a lot about the ‘why’, whether that’s in training or in a game,” he explained. “That is about pride in the shirt and what has gone before us. Stuart has worked hard on that – the cause behind why a player should take themselves to a dark place during a game, both physically and mentally. 

“Last year’s game hurt. But you have to learn from a game like that. We’ve moved on and our performances have shown that.

“We’re desperate to win the Championship now, and that means we have to beat Wales in this next game.”