Rowntree's England ultimatum

Wed, 07 Nov 2012 10:33
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England's forwards coach Graham Rowntree has delivered the ultimate ultimatum to the team: It is time to deliver for England in the year-end Tests.

England's forwards coach Graham Rowntree has delivered the ultimate ultimatum to the team: It is time to deliver for England in the year-end Tests.

Rowntree, speaking on RFUTV, said there is every indication that Stuart Lancaster's side can emerge from pressure with wins.

The nucleus of this England squad has been through the 2013 Six Nations and mid-year tour to South Africa, where, according to the forwards coach, results exceeded what could have been expected.

However, with Fiji, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand arriving at Twickenham on successive Saturdays this month, Rowntree, in typically robust fashion, delivered a stirring call for "production time."

"We did better than expected in the Six Nations, you could say that about the mid-year series too, although we were gutted not to win that series, we believe we could've won it."

Rowntree spoke about the progress they have made, especially in the 0-2 series loss to the Springboks in June.

"Playing against the Boks, particularly that second Test in Johannesburg, we learnt a lot - we learnt a lot in coming back from, 10-28 down and nearly winning the game," Rowntree said.

However, for England's new coaching panel, under the stewardship of head coach Lancaster, the honeymoon is over.

"We have to produce now," Rowntree said, adding: "We're very aware of that.

"The pressure is on - it's on us, from us, about delivering performances but the guys have got to deal with that pressure and from what we've seen so far, they are.

"They can't wait to get out at Twickenham and show everyone they're ready."

One person for whom showing they are ready for Test rugby is especially pertinent is Leicester Tigers hooker Tom Youngs, who is in line to debut in the No.2 shirt in the absence of Dylan Hartley.

The older brother of England scrumhalf Ben has been on an extraordinary journey from England Under 20 and Leicester Tigers centre to international hooker and Rowntree is on record extolling his virtues for the position.

But what has impressed the England Forwards Coach in recent weeks is the 25-year-old's ability to come through difficult situations and solve the problems presented therein himself.

"He's been very consistent for Leicester, in that he's played every week," said Rowntree. "And he's learning in some difficult environments over the last month: Toulouse away, Ospreys at home, Gloucester away.

"In those matches learning about dealing with pressure. But he's working it out for himself, recovering from things that have not gone his way. I'm delighted with his form, his progress and his attitude.

"His character is his biggest asset, his desire to get better in every facet of his game."

There has been talk in the England camp this week of getting the mindset right for Fiji, given the tier two nation is the first visitors to Twickenham, followed by the only three teams placed above England in the world rankings.

Despite the sterner tests that lie in wait, Rowntree explained there is no chance the players will take their eye off the ball, given the sense of duty every time someone pulls on an England shirt.

The pack mentor said they will give all their opposition, including Fiji, the respect they deserve.

"It's the next game in an England shirt, there are responsibilities that go with that," he added. "It's also our first game back at Twickenham for a long time and there are a lot of guys with a lot to prove.

"Selection is tough, in so far as we've got competition in many, if not all, positions. There'll be no complacency by any means."