Rowntree urges England to move on
November 28, 2008
Rowntree casts an eye over an England training session earlier this month © Getty Images
Scrum coach Graham Rowntree warned England will "get thumped" by New Zealand if they go into Saturday's game fearing a repeat of last weekend's 42-6 record home defeat to South Africa.
The All Blacks arrive at Twickenham as the best team in the world and one victory away from completing only the third 'grand slam' tour in their history. Rowntree knows New Zealand will prey ruthlessly on any weaknesses - either mental or physical - and he told England they cannot afford to carry with them any hangover from that Springbok nightmare.
"If we go into this game on the weekend feeling sorry for ourselves then we will get thumped, we will get thumped," said Rowntree, who won 57 caps for England and the Lions and played New Zealand five times. "It's hard. The players are hurting but they are very young and inexperienced and we were honest with them on Monday and Tuesday.
"But then we have to build them back up again. We have to instil that confidence in them. We are not going to enter the game with any fear. Over the years this whole aura got built up around New Zealand. I couldn't give a stuff what they have done in the past. This is the last game of the series for them to give a good account of themselves."
Erasing the mental scars of last weekend's defeat is a not inconsiderable task. England enjoyed around 65% of possession and forced the Springboks to make over twice as many tackles - but lost the Test five tries to nil.
Forwards coach John Wells believes England will have to take those painful lessons on the chin if they are to develop into a world-beating outfit once again. It took Sir Clive Woodward six years to take England from a 76-0 defeat to Australia to winning the World Cup.
"You should not accept these kinds of results for England - but this is a young side," said Wells. "Everyone remembers England's good days in 2003 but they went through a lot of pain and lost a lot of matches before that.
"We are going to have to grow again and bring young lads through quickly. South Africa got smash`ed 49-0 in Sydney 15 months before they won the World Cup. You can turn things around. We are all hurt and we have taken this last week really badly. The scoreboard doesn't lie and yes, we were panned by 40-odd points.
"But we are not that far away. We created some cracking opportunities. If we take one or two of those opportunities then we are in the game."
A major factor in England's failure to convert their swathes of possession into points has been their inability to regularly win quick ball at the breakdown. Last weekend, South Africa prop Beast Mtawarira was sin-binned for lying over the ball but only after the Springboks had driven England's players and coaches half to distraction.
Wells admitted his young back row, schooled in academies and the Guinness Premiership, are not streetwise enough to match the hardened packs from the southern hemisphere and that is a major lesson England must learn quickly.
"A major issue last week was the number of damn players in green shirts that were lying over the ball, on the ball or around the ball almost to the point we were pointing it out to the ref," said Wells. "What's the answer? Unfortunately as much as we would like to kick the hell out of these guys, you can't do that.
"I don't like the new laws in that respect. It takes some of the violence out of the game. That is disappointing because it helps everybody win quick ball. The other problem is that players in this country are not encouraged to learn those arts because the Guinness Premiership referees are brilliant.
"I had one skill as player, I could cheat and cheat well. I could get away with it then because referees didn't know how to referee that type of breakdown. South Africa came here with an experienced bunch of lads that have obviously consistently got away with getting themselves on the wrong side of the ball. We lacked that nouse."
And this weekend comes Richie McCaw, the greatest exponent of pushing the breakdown boundaries to the limit.
"We need to play to the edge of the law without stepping over it," said captain Steve Borthwick. "We did not adapt to the referee's interpretations against South Africa and gave away too many penalties at the breakdown against Australia. The balance is somewhere in between."