Graham Rowntree evokes English spirit of 2003

MARC HINTON
Last updated 05:00 03/06/2014
Graham Rowntree
Getty Images

BEEN THERE, DONE THAT: England assistant coach Graham Rowntree is one of a few visiting players to have won a test series in NZ.

Relevant offers

All Blacks

Sir Clive Woodward says All Blacks not yet threatened by England as world's best Sonny Bill Williams will give any Olympic sevens medal to his daughter NZ Rugby sets cheapest ticket to British & Irish Lions tests next year at $149 Marc Hinton: Statement series for big movers Beauden Barrett and Israel Dagg All Blacks prop Joe Moody commits through to next Rugby World Cup 'Bordering on the ridiculous': Hansen says global season can't come soon enough Ireland can beat the All Blacks, lock Iain Henderson says Michael Cheika reveals Wallabies veterans in mix for Bledisloe Cup matches Five things we learned about the All Blacks during the Welsh series New All Black Elliot Dixon says teammates might have 'cracked up' if he had sung national anthem

It's not unknown for the England rugby team to lay down a World Cup marker in New Zealand - a situation assistant coach Graham Rowntree knows only too well.

As the current England team - minus a few frontliners - plot the upset of the century against the All Blacks at Eden Park on Saturday night, assistant coach Rowntree shapes as a key figure for the tourists.

Rowntree, after all, is one of the few Englishmen to have tasted victory over the All Blacks on their home soil - being part of Martin Johnson's 2003 side that won against the odds in Wellington, just months before going on to lift the World Cup in Australia.

It's going to be Rowntree's job to convince his charges that they too can carve their place in history if they bring the right ingredients against the world's No 1 side.

The long-serving loosehead prop yesterday recalled what he believed to be the key ingredient in that 15-13 victory in 2003, notable for the English side at one stage being down to just six forwards and still repelling the All Blacks' scrum from five metres out.

"It was a special night, and a case of incredible self-belief," Rowntree said yesterday as his side stepped up preparations for three straight tests against the All Blacks. "That night it took an incredible amount of self-belief. We all know how good this [All Blacks] team is at the moment and how good they are as a nation, but we come out here full of enthusiasm and self-belief."

Rowntree later shared a more fulsome recollection of that night, and sitting alongside him at the team hotel you could see young Bath prop David Wilson positively bristling at the evocation of that spirited evening in the capital.

"We were fortuitous because Carlos Spencer missed a few opportunities with ball in hand and shots at goal, but we stuck in there. I remember being down to six men in a scrum on our own goal-line at one period, because we had Lawrence [Dallaglio] and Neil Back in the sinbin.

"It's hard enough with the full deck of cards against the All Blacks, never mind down to six. That was hanging on for dear life but that's rugby in adversity - digging in and hanging on there.

"That was a significant win for that group of players who went on to win the World Cup. It was a stepping stone. That's what it's about for our young players as well, hopefully achieving those stepping stones. Pitching ourselves against the best at Eden Park on Saturday night, it doesn't get any better or any harder."

Rowntree emphasised that this week was not about who wasn't here for England (their Premiership finalists), nor about who was there for an All Blacks lineup he admitted was oozing ability and experience.

"It's about our own game. We've made so many strides with a group of players over the last eight months, then it's bolting on another group and bedding them in with your systems. We'll see what they can do because they're super excited.

"But we've got enough on our plate getting our own game right to be over-awed  by the All  Blacks. We know how good we have to be, we know the challenge they bring, but with a new group we've got enough on our plate getting our own game going."

Ad Feedback

Wilson, who's won 34 caps in the front row, said the belief factor was high in a group that were invigorated by the opportunity.

"We have a few guys missing but it's a brilliant opportunity for everybody involved. As a schoolboy I used to dream about playing New Zealand so here I am. It's a great opportunity for everyone who takes the field.

"You know they're a class act, but at the end of the day they're 15 men, we're 15 men and you do the best on the night."

Listening to Rowntree evoke 2003, Wilson admitted it was "dead motivating", before adding: "It's what rugby is - you work as hard as you can for 80 minutes and hopefully you're going to be there or thereabouts close to the end." 

- Stuff

Special offers
Opinion poll

Who was the best-performed All Blacks forward on the northern tour?

Dane Coles

Nathan Harris

Keven Mealamu

Wyatt Crockett

Charlie Faumuina

Ben Franks

Owen Franks

Joe Moody

Brodie Retallick

Luke Romano

Jeremy Thrush

Patrick Tuipulotu

Sam Whitelock

Sam Cane

Jerome Kaino

Richie McCaw

Liam Messam

Kieran Read

Vitor Vito

Vote Result

Featured Promotions

Sponsored Content