Rowntree expecting set-piece battle
September 6, 2011
Rowntree (centre) says his England squad are prepared for a huge challenge up front against Argentina © Getty Images
England scrum coach Graham Rowntree has prepared his charges for the ultimate challenge of fronting up to Argentina's set-piece in Saturday's Rugby World Cup opener.
Rowntree faced the Pumas twice in his own 53-Test career and he knows from brutal experience that England could not have asked for a tougher opening challenge.
England will name their team in the early hours of Thursday and they are expected to field a mammoth front row of Steve Thompson, Dan Cole and Andrew Sheridan in Otago on Saturday.
"You test yourself as a player, as a front row forward, against the Argentinians and the French. And when you've got Argentinians playing with French clubs, that doubles the challenge", he said.
"As a youngster, one of my first caps was against Argentina and that was a difficult evening. It's a benchmark of scrummaging gurus: how do you do against a team like Argentina or France? Are they the best in the business? We'll see in this competition.
Rowntree continued: "They're always a handful as a nation. A very physical outfit, the whole team: forward line, back line, they won't give up. It's always a very hard, physical encounter against them and I don't think that will ever change. That philosophy on scrummaging is to be respected - but we like scrummaging as well!"
Argentina named their team earlier today with grizzled Clermont Auvergne hooker Mario Ledesma set to join England's Jonny Wilkinson in being one of a select few players to be selected out for his fourth World Cup.
Ledesma will pack down in a Pumas front row alongside Stade Francais prop Rodrigo Roncero and the inexperienced Montpellier tighthead Juan Figallo, who got the nod ahead of Martin Scelzo.
Other than the retention of Figallo in the side that lost to Wales last month, the only notable selection was the return of former London Irish and Harlequins centre Gonzalo Tiesi.
England are set to name the same team they had intended on fielding against Ireland just under a fortnight ago before injury intervened, with James Haskell to start at openside flanker and Nick Easter at number eight.
Dylan Hartley limped up on stage in England's official welcoming ceremony, which included a haka, highland dancing and some Chinese acrobats but England officials insist he is not in doubt for the game.
The squad received a rousing reception at Dunedin town hall, where they were treated to a Maori welcome, a haka from local schoolchildren, some highland dancing and acrobatic Chinese dragons.
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