Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 September 2014

Twickenham 'must be a fortress again'

Graham Rowntree insists England have to start beating the southern hemisphere teams regularly

Graham Rowntree challenged England to rebuild Twickenham as the impenetrable fortress it once was - starting in Saturday's Cook Cup showdown with Australia.

England were unbeaten at home for four years and 22 Tests in the build-up to their 2003 World Cup triumph, a run that included seven wins against the southern hemisphere giants. In the autumn of 2002, England beat Australia, South Africa and New Zealand on home soil to establish themselves as the best team in the world.

England face the same three opponents at Twickenham over the next three Saturdays and coach Rowntree insisted: "We have to start beating these teams. To be able to beat a very good and very experienced Australia team would be a significant feather in our cap."

He added: "The rivalry is there for all of these teams coming up. They are massive challenges.

"We are going in the right direction and we have a good young leadership group but the proof is in the pudding and it is about time we started beating these teams in the autumn series."

England have enjoyed more success against the Wallabies than either the Springboks or world champions New Zealand in recent years. Stuart Lancaster's men go into the game as favourites to complete a third consecutive victory over the Wallabies, who were thumped 33-6 by France last weekend.

Australia are also beset by injuries, with key flanker David Pocock, centre Pat McCabe and lock Kane Douglas all sidelined, while lock Rob Simmons is suspended.

But England are acutely aware of how the Wallabies responded to a welter of criticism for their Rugby Championship performances by holding New Zealand to an 18-18 draw in Brisbane before flying to Europe.

Lancaster has steeled his men for a Wallaby backlash, a message Rowntree reinforced after the squad's final training run at Twickenham on Friday.

"They are a cagey team, a very skilful team," Rowntree said. "You never know where the next threat is coming from so you have to have everything covered. That is what we have found in recent years. This is another big step for us this weekend."

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