Rowntree admits England position 'beyond strange'


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The Independent Online

If Graham Rowntree could have avoided three topics yesterday they would have been the search for an England head coach; his own future on the staff; and the Grand Slam misfire in Dublin last year. He was asked about all three.

Did the forwards coach consider himself to be in a strange position, having helped drag England from the post-World Cup swamp to three Six Nations victories in four without the slightest indication from the Rugby Football Union that he would be employed beyond the end of the month?

"Strange? Of course it's strange," he said. "We're beyond strange now, aren't we? There's a lot up in the air at the moment. My wife understands the situation, but she's frustrated. I know that all we can do as coaches is perform our roles and let everything else take care of itself. Whatever happens, I just hope it's right for me.

"But it's not simply about the three of us in the coaching team. There are 20-odd other guys in the management saying: 'What will we be doing in six months' time?'"

Together with the caretaker head coach, Stuart Lancaster, and the backs coach, Andy Farrell, Rowntree has delivered in spades. He has worked his share of 16-hour days and he has found the experience "fulfilling". If the RFU does not throw its weight behind the trio after this weekend's home game with Ireland, a lot of people will want to know why.

Rowntree cast an interesting sidelight on Lancaster's approach.

"He has a very simple philosophy," he said. "It's about getting good people involved, people who want to work for each other. Stuart is a selfless guy, very humble man, and there is now a lot of that selflessness in the group."

The last time England met Ireland, in Dublin in 2011, the home pack dominated. "You had to mention that, didn't you?" Rowntree said. The Irish will head to Twickenham with the ferocious flanker Sean O'Brien fully fit. His fellow back-rower Stephen Ferris went after England yesterday.

"If you ask any team who they like beating, it's always England," said the Ulsterman. "I think they come with a tag of being a bit arrogant. They're a good side full of winners but when they lose they don't like it."

Ireland: R Kearney (Leinster); T Bowe (Ospreys), K Earls (Munster), G D'Arcy (Leinster), A Trimble (Ulster); J Sexton, E Reddan; C Healy (all Leinster), R Best (Ulster, capt), M Ross (Leinster), D O'Callaghan, D Ryan (both Munster), S Ferris (Ulster), S O'Brien, J Heaslip (both Leinster). Replacements: S Cronin (Leinster), T Court (Ulster), M McCarthy (Connacht), P O'Mahony, T O'Leary, R O'Gara (all Munster), F McFadden (Leinster).