Rowntree vents anger at referee calls
March 20, 2013
England forwards coach Graham Rowntree is "seeking clarification" from the International Rugby Board over the performance of referee Steve Walsh in Saturday's 30-3 defeat to Wales.
Rowntree is "annoyed" by the way Walsh handled both the scrum and the breakdown, two key areas which Wales dominated as they stormed to a record victory and the Six Nations title. Wales are said to have admitted privately after the match that they collapsed the scrum on six occasions but it was England, unable to hold them up, who were penalised.
England also have issues with the key turnover which led to Alex Cuthbert's first try, a moment head coach Stuart Lancaster described as "the tipping point" in the game. Rowntree suggested the message he received in his pre-match meeting with Walsh was not followed through into the game and he wants to ask the IRB's referee's chief Joel Jutge why.
"I sat up on Saturday night and watched the game again forensically," said Rowntree. "I'm annoyed at a lot of the outcomes and I will be speaking to the IRB to get some clarification about it.
"With Joel Jutge now in charge of the IRB referees he's very keen for an open forum and a very honest review process from the coaches and the referees. In most of the games I've submitted glowing reports on referees but on this occasion we were frustrated by a lot of the outcomes and I will be speaking to Joel to get some clarification (about the) breakdown and scrum.
"I spoke to Steve after the game. We both agreed that we would go away and have a look at the game again. Having watched it, I need clarification. A lot of those decisions were big, game momentum-changing decisions."
Walsh awarded a total of 12 penalties and four free-kicks against England, who won just one of four scrums on their own ball at the Millennium Stadium. England have been criticised for not being "streetwise", for not adapting to Walsh's interpretations smartly enough or playing the referee cleverly enough.
But Rowntree rejected the notion. His oft-stated coaching philosophy is that he wants England's scrum to stay up and either go forwards or take the pain and go backwards.
"I don't buy this whole 'streetwise' thing," Rowntree said. "We just want a clean outcome at the scrum, we don't practice anything different."
England will also raise the turnover won by Wales replacement Ken Owens on Tom Wood, which led directly to Cuthbert's first try.
"There was then a turnover at the breakdown - which we still need clarification on - and that was the tipping point in the game," Lancaster said. "Whatever happened in that breakdown it was disappointing to lose composure and let the game slip away."
Despite his frustrations with officialdom, Lancaster praised Wales for doing to England what his side had done to New Zealand in the autumn. With their British and Irish Lions coaching hats on, Rowntree and Andy Farrell will have been happy with much of what they saw from Wales' key players.
"You know who is making a difference. A lot of their (Wales') experienced, big-game players turned up at the weekend," Farrell said.
Lancaster will visit every member of the red rose squad over the next few weeks to discuss the fall-out from Cardiff, before they head off on summer tours with either England or the Lions.
"I think we have continued to make progress since beating New Zealand but we've still got a fair way to go," Lancaster said. "You've got to go through the tough times but I'd rather go through the tough times now than turn round in 2015 and we're blooding young players with no experience at a home World Cup in our own backyard.
"The next step is for our best players to go to the Lions and see how they develop under that pressure, which will be significant. Mike Catt and I will take another group of players to Argentina. It will be critical for us because we go to a hostile environment and put ourselves under pressure."
England play the Barbarians on May 26 before embarking on a four match trip to South America, with two Tests against Argentina in Salta and Buenos Aires. Lancaster could find himself without around eight of his first XV for the tour and he will place the emphasis on development in a bid to increase the squad depth and competition for places.
England's back row, for example, was unbalanced with Tom Wood filling in at number eight because of untimely injuries to Ben Morgan and Billy Vunipola. Lancaster is to develop new options in the back three - the likes of Christian Wade and Jonny May - and give Billy Twelvetrees a chance to influence the game more from inside centre.
"I see increased pressure coming on certain players, definitely," Lancaster said. "Within your pack you want ball carriers and ball winners. In Luke Wallace, Will Fraser and Matt Kvesic we have genuine competition in the seven shirt, which is what we need.
"In your back line you've got to have a balance of ball-carriers, finishers and creators. That's an important balance to achieve."
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