Rowntree backs youth to right wrongs
January 31, 2012
Graham Rowntree hands out the orders in training © Getty Images
England forwards coach Graham Rowntree believes the youthful renaissance experienced under the new coaching regime will go a long way to banish the memories of the infamous World Cup.
Rowntree is the only surviving member of the England management team from the World Cup, a failed campaign which left him "ashamed" and sullied the reputation of red rose rugby. The fall-out was brutal but Rowntree was retained by interim head coach Lancaster to help build a new England team with a new culture.
Rowntree expects Scotland will relish the chance in their Six Nations opener to welcome a raw England side, potentially featuring three uncapped players in the starting line-up, into the inhospitable surrounds of Murrayfield. If Owen Farrell, Brad Barritt and Phil Dowson are given their Test debuts, they are tipped to be joined by Mouritz Botha and new captain Chris Robshaw who have just one Test cap apiece.
Rowntree is happy to concede England are underdogs - but he warned Scotland not to underestimate them on the grounds of Test match experience. "Scotland always save a passion up for us," said Rowntree, the England forwards coach. "Going up there, especially at this point in time, given where we have been, the unspeakable past, they will be licking their lips.
"We will be expecting that. Those emotions and those experiences of running out on the field are what drive you as a player. It is a fact we are underdogs in terms of experience. No-one expects us to do well. We will have something to say about that.
"We have not got as much experience as previous teams but these guys are good enough. What has impressed me has been the energy and eagerness to get us up and running again.
"We reached a bit of a low as a national team but we dropped that within two days of being together. If you look in our dressing room, there is plenty of passion and Englishness there.
"Away games in club land and the Test arena are what makes it special. I envy the players."
England have not won at Murrayfield since 2004, in the early days of their reign as world champions, since when they have suffered two defeats and been held to a draw. But, as hooker Dylan Hartley explained, very few of this England squad have experienced those dark times. Perhaps more importantly, very few have experienced success either.
England's heroes from 2003 - the likes of Mike Tindall, Steve Thompson, Jonny Wilkinson - are all gone. Big names from last year's Six Nations title success have also been cast aside. "It's a new challenge," Hartley said. "No one in here can say they have won the World Cup, no one in here can say they have won a Grand Slam. Only a few have won the Six Nations.
"We have a new group, we are going to grow and learn together. There are challenges ahead of us. It is difficult to win at Murrayfield. We haven't won there in eight years. You can get into an arm wrestle with the Scots.
"It is just a challenge in itself, going away from home and winning. I don't get intimidated. I enjoy it. The atmosphere is always good - the bagpipes, smoke, all the singing. It is the things you enjoy as a player. I am excited for it."
There are lessons England can take from that "unspeakable past", not least the way England scraped unconvincingly into the World Cup quarter-finals with Chris Ashton's last-gasp try against Scotland.
"We won the game in the last minute and we don't want to be in that position again, chasing it," Hartley said. "Kevin Sinfield and Jamie Peacock said (when they addressed us) last week - we can't wait until we are 20 minutes into the game.
"We have got to start in the first minute, grab the game by the scruff of the neck. You can't wait for something to happen. We have got to pile in."
That is the message too from the England management, who are attempting to remove the shackles and encourage a more attacking outlook from the squad. Scotland's back row are experts at combating sides who want to play with tempo and England are unlikely to get much of an opportunity to play free-flowing rugby at Murrayfield.
But Rowntree insisted the shift in approach from England applies as much to their mindset as to their style of play. "They have a good kicking game, a good pressure game. We have got to meet that head on," he said. "There will be fire and brimstone but I like to think we can bring a bit of that as well.
"We put our trust in these guys. We don't want these guys to be harnessed by the fear of losing. Go out and play. Play like you do for your clubs. Don't be worrying about making a mistake."
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