Rowntree set for ‘canny’ Australia

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Published: Tuesday 25th November 2014 by The News Editor

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Graham Rowntree is braced for set-piece chicanery from Australia when England attempt to rescue a disappointing QBE Series in the climax to the autumn at Twickenham on Saturday.

The scrum has been repeatedly exposed as the Wallabies’ Achilles heel and head coach Stuart Lancaster has outlined his aim of pressurising Michael Cheika’s men in a department of the game that is a source of the Red Rose strength.

But Rowntree, whose work with England’s bulldozing pack has received high praise, believes Australia will use their cunning to level the playing field.

“I don’t trust Australia, they’re a canny team. Always have been,” Rowntree said.

“They’re one of the most difficult teams to analyse in any week, but particularly in the last game of this series because they’ve lost their last two matches.

“I have so much respect for Michael Cheika. He’s a wise, smart, coach and I’m sure there will be a few tricks up their sleeves, as there always are against Australia.

“I don’t trust the notion that they’ll potentially struggle in the set piece. Any time that has been said about them, they’ve proved us wrong.

“They’re clever tactically. They set you up for things and then do something completely different.

“You have to have all of your bases covered with Australia because they’re a very clever team.

“Around set-piece and line-out time, I’m sure they’ll have a few sneaks ready.”

Rowntree is delighted with the progress made by props David Wilson and Joe Marler, both of whom were considered second or third choices in their positions before the autumn was launched with a 24-21 defeat by New Zealand.

Wilson has capitalised on the injury-enforced absence of Dan Cole to give England a headache when the Leicester tighthead returns, while the loss of Alex Corbisiero and Mako Vunipola to the treatment room has enabled Marler to come to the fore.

“Our props have done well, they’ve grown in stature with experience and are very dependable now,” said Rowntree, who expects lock Courtney Lawes to recover from his knee injury in time to face Australia.

“They are class props. They’re durable as well because it’s a tough job doing what they are doing in the Test arena. They’ve both grown into their roles.

“In the past few years David has played a bit-part role for us off the bench, but he’s been the mainstay for us over the last 10 months.

“I’ve been really pleased with his progress and he knows there’s more to come from his game. Joe’s the same. Last weekend his game involvement was better than ever.

“They both know there’s more to come and it’s my job to drive that. They’re a delight to work with most of the time.

“They’re good guys who have a good energy, especially when it’s wet and cold and they’re scrummaging.”

The 28-9 victory over Samoa on Saturday brought England breathing space as they contend with the pressure building after starting the autumn with successive defeats to New Zealand and South Africa.

By toppling Australia – group opponents at next year’s World Cup – they would be able to reflect on an acceptable if disappointing return from the autumn, while defeat would point to further stagnation following a promising RBS 6 Nations.

“This game is very important for us. It’s the last chance for us in this series to turn one of these guys over,” Rowntree said.

Published: Tuesday 25th November 2014 by The News Editor

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