Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 December 2014

Rowntree wary of confident Wales

Graham Rowntree
Graham Rowntree

Graham Rowntree will put cross-border friendships on hold as he prepares England to overturn the odds and defend their proud Twickenham record against Wales.

England's forwards coach knows the Wales coaching staff and a number of their key players from the 2009 British and Irish Lions tour and he holds them in the highest regard.

"It is hard to dislike this Welsh team - but I'll do my best to try," Rowntree said. "I have worked with these guys on the Lions. I have been impressed by their skill. They are good guys as well. They are a complete outfit in terms of what they can produce in the tight and dynamically in the loose."

He added: "They are the form team, coming to Twickenham as favourites for the first time in a long time. They have a great opportunity to come to Twickenham and roll us at the weekend.

"They would have taken great confidence from the World Cup and a great win in Ireland. They will be fancying their chances.

"Something we spoke about all week is matching that challenge. I am ready to play. I think we are going to be able to step up."

England are also unbeaten in the championship but they have ground out victories over Scotland and Italy, scoring two charge-down tries from Charlie Hodgson compared to Wales' six.

However, Rowntree does not believe the gap between the two teams is as great as the respective performances so far would suggest, given England met Scotland in the rain and Italy in the snow.

"We are going to be up for the challenge. We have only scored two tries from charge-downs but our endeavour is good," he said. "We have had difficult circumstances which we have all spoken about the last couple of weeks.

"Scotland threw everything at us and over in Italy, in difficult conditions, in the second half we showed with a bit of ball how we can attack. This is the next game and I think we are going to be able to step up."

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