Rowntree: England must kick on
December 30, 2012
England shocked the All Blacks at Twickenham © PA Photos
Graham Rowntree has called on England to use their magnificent win over New Zealand as a springboard for their Six Nations campaign.
England recorded their biggest win over the All Blacks with a 38-21 triumph at Twickenham at the beginning of this month. And the England forwards coach insists Stuart Lancaster's team must use that performance as a benchmark for future displays - starting with the Six Nations opener against Scotland in February.
"The year was rounded off by that All Blacks win and it showed what we can do when we get everything right," he told the Rugby Paper. "That's got to be our benchmark going forward and our challenge now is to do that against Scotland and hit the Six Nations running.
"As a coach, it doesn't come much better than beating the All Blacks, especially when they're the reigning world champions, and it was right up there. It's well documented how much we were hurting after losing to Australia and South Africa, but the beauty of our crew is we're learning, and learning very quickly.
"It was a great sign of our character and there was a real sense of belief during that last week that we wanted to get the win we'd worked so hard for. We're not the finished article by any means, but we showed we could win ball at the set-piece and breakdown and use it against top teams.
"We didn't do it against Australia and that was a major learning experience for us, but overall we're quite pleased with where we're going."
England skipper Chris Robshaw endured a mixed autumn series as he came in for criticism for a couple of decisions he made against Australia and South Africa before responding with a terrific performance against All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw. And Rowntree is full of admiration for the Quins flanker, whom he believes is a top openside.
"I've said before how I consider 'Robbo' as a No.7, because he can do all the roles of a natural No.7," said Rowntree. "But Robbo is also a lineout threat and a ball-carrier, as are all our back rowers, and in the last two games of the autumn his game really kicked on.
"He showed a great deal of composure and leadership following the South Africa ame, because he was being lambasted by everyone. The coaches got behind him, the ream got behind him and he really showed his worth in that last game against New Zealand. He came through with flying colours, as did all of our back rowers and the whole forward pack."
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