Rowntree warns of smarter England

Graham Rowntree says England have improved in the last 12 months

Graham Rowntree says England have improved in the last 12 months

First published in National Sport News © by

Graham Rowntree has warned Wales ahead of Sunday's RBS 6 Nations showdown at Twickenham that England are a different proposition to the team routed in Cardiff last year.

Twelve months have passed since the Red Rose were overwhelmed 30-3 at the Millennium Stadium, denying them the Grand Slam and enabling Warren Gatland's champions to successfully defend their crown.

England were accused of being bullied in a performance that even prompted calls for the pack to be rebuilt such was Wales' dominance up front.

Since then a string of victories, particularly over Australia and Ireland, has restored optimism and England's forwards coach Rowntree admits last year's Cardiff ordeal has given motivation to his team.

"That game hurt. It's well documented how much that hurt me and the forwards," he said.

"We have come a long way from that because we have learned from it. I said at the time it was important that we capture the lessons from that game.

"It's driven us on. The intensity their forward pack brought to that game is something we are striving to match.

"I think we have shown we can do it, but we have got to do it consistently."

Wales were thrust back into title contention with a 27-6 victory over France, a result delivered after Gatland had warned his players that some of them were playing for their Test futures after being put to the sword by Ireland.

Rowntree has worked alongside Gatland on two British and Irish Lions tours and understands the force of the Kiwi's hairdryer treatment.

"We have had a look at Wales' recent games. Warren laid down the law for that France game. I have seen him do that before," Rowntree said.

"I can imagine what it was like. And the players delivered. All their big-name players stood up that night and I am sure they'll be looking to do the same against us.

"Warren can be very direct. He doesn't say a lot but what he does say, you listen to."

Ben Morgan will start at number eight after Billy Vunipola suffered a championship-ending ankle injury against Ireland.

Morgan has made substantial contributions from the bench in England's three Six Nations matches to date and Rowntree is backing the Gloucester back row to excel for 80 minutes against Wales.

"Ben has made significant progress in the six weeks he's been with us," Rowntree said.

"He's worked hard on his game and on his conditioning, and has been very good coming off the bench.

"I have every faith if we pick him to start at eight. I love working with him, he's a pleasure to coach.

"The way he is going and his attitude means I'm excited about seeing him.

"He's very similar to Billy in terms of raw horse power. He has a nice blend in his game like Billy - offloading, passing game, defending game.

"For a big man he's very good at quickly getting off the floor post-tackle. He is a line-out threat and has a good brain as well."

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