Six Nations 2014: England are still a work in progress, says Graham Rowntree

Forwards coach wary ahead of showdown with Italy

Graham Rowntree, the England forwards coach, has seen too many things go horribly wrong on the last day of a Six Nations campaign to view this weekend's trip to Rome as anything other than an accident waiting to happen. Dublin in 2011, Cardiff in 2013… those bitter disappointments have not been, and may never be, truly forgotten. Hence the old Leicester front-rower's determination to keep his players honest ahead of their meeting with the Italians, who will not be found wanting in the motivation department.

"When I look at this England side, do I see a world-class team? No I don't," he said, 48 hours after a victory over Wales that not only kept the red-rose army in the hunt for this season's title, but laid some of the necessary foundations for a meaningful assault on a far bigger prize in 18 months' time – namely, the World Cup.

"What I do see is a world-class attitude. The players are incredibly keen: willing to learn, happy to take criticism. We've just reviewed the performance against Wales and it's clear there are still things that need working on. We have to keep pushing these blokes and driving the standards because at the moment, we're not hitting the ceiling of our game with any consistency. I'm not playing anything down. It's just that there are so many areas for improvements to be made."

If this was a harsh assessment, the selection meeting was no less brutal. Alex Goode, the ultra-sophisticated full-back from Saracens, did nothing wrong against Wales – truth to tell, he was not on the field long enough to do much right, either – but he has lost his place in the squad for the championship finale. The Leicester centre Manu Tuilagi, a single club game into his comeback after six months of injury hassle, has elbowed him aside and will provide cover for both wing positions, as well as the midfield.

"This is nothing against Alex," said Rowntree, "and it was a difficult conversation to have with him, but Manu is a British Lion, a class player and a wrecking ball for us." Would he describe Tuilagi as "hungry" for a return to international rugby after his extended break? "He's always hungry," replied the coach, with a smile.

Meanwhile, the International Rugby Board will soon receive a missive from the Wales hierarchy, who were none too happy with the way Romain Poite, the French referee, controlled the scrum contest at Twickenham.

"I'm not concerned with our scrum; I'm concerned that we've fallen the wrong side of M Poite," said Robin McBryde, the fallen champions' set-piece strategist, who intends to question the sin-binning of the long-serving prop Gethin Jenkins. "I'll be sending an email to both Romain and Joël Jutge [the governing body's referee manager] because it's important that we're looking at the same things."

A year ago, Rowntree could be heard saying something very similar after England were whistled clean out of the Millennium Stadium by the Australian official Steve Walsh. Oh, the irony of it.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas