Rowntree: We have some tough decisions to make

  • England Forwards Coach “delighted” with Barbarians win
  • “We’ve found out a lot about these players in the last year”

Graham Rowntree believes the England XV’s 73-12 defeat of the Barbarians on Sunday – and a week of intense, focussed preparation prior to the fixture – defined the immense competition and appetite across Stuart Lancaster’s squad heading towards the Rugby World Cup.

The hosts racked up 10 tries on the way to a comprehensive defeat of the invitational team at Twickenham, and there were some exceptional individual performances.

Hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie, a member of the 50-man World Cup training party, enjoyed an effervescent shift.

He picked up two assists and, along with lock pairing Joe Launchbury and Ed Slater, asserted himself as a contender for the final 31-strong group. 

But figures on the periphery impressed as well, a back row of Mark Wilson, Jack Clifford and Josh Beaumont industrious and effective against illustrious opposition including Australia great George Smith.

For England Forwards Coach Rowntree, the signs are extremely encouraging, both in the short- and long-term.

“That was a star-studded BaaBaas team, so to score that many points against them was very pleasing,” he said.

“It wasn’t perfect, but you’ve got to remember that we met up six days ago. They’ve trained really well.

“I’ve been delighted with their attitude and that performance today shows that.

“That’s what we have got now – tremendous depth in our squads. Today there was a young group of men who really wanted to play well for each other and for their country. I’m really proud of their performance.

“Some guys who played today are in our training squad, others are not – but they came in and made their mark.

“I can’t really single anyone out, I’m just delighted with their collective attitude.”

Lancaster, Rowntree and the rest of the senior backroom staff will hope those players convening on 22 June at Pennyhill Park adopt the same approach.

Of course, given the tournament’s opening clash with Fiji on 18 September will be looming large, jostling for selection over an arduous schedule is guaranteed.

“They’ve got a few weeks off now. A few guys will be in doing some extra fitness but we all meet on 22nd June for some hard training.

“Then we’re off to Denver for some high-altitude training and then we’ll be into warm-up games, basically.

“It’s going to be really competitive and it’s going to be great for us all as coaches to see them there training, doing skills and contact against each other. We’ve got some tough decisions.”

On announcing the 50 names to make the training squad a fortnight ago, Lancaster suggested that the “pressure” of 15-on-15 training sessions would be “red-hot”.

Rowntree finished in complete agreement with those sentiments.

“That’s the game. That’s why we train 15-on-15. It’s not all full contact but Test rugby is all about what you do next in the game.

“We train at high speed and that’s when you find out a lot about the guys. Over the last year, we’ve found out a lot about the guys that way.”