Monday 24 June 2019

Graham Rowntree praises French ref Romain Poite ahead of do-or-die Australia clash

Referee Romain Poite
Referee Romain Poite

Duncan Bech

Graham Rowntree insists England will embrace the expectation of a nation when they attempt to save their World Cup by toppling Australia.

The hosts' tournament will be over in a mere 16 days should the Wallabies depart Twickenham as victors on Saturday, transforming the Pool A showdown into a do a die-or-die clash with far reaching implications.

England start as marginal favourites and have won four of their last five matches against their old rivals, but must come to terms with the reality of playing knockout rugby two matches early.

"You have to keep telling yourselves how lucky and blessed we are rather than being stressed by the pressure of it all," forwards coach Rowntree said.

"You can feel the weight of the nation willing us on against Australia and I envy the guys who will be on the field. I remember that feeling as a player.

"As a coach or player, you cannot forget how lucky you are to be involved in these matches.

"We've trained exceptionally well this week. Losing to Wales last week hardened us and there's been a real focus about what we've done.

"We'll have to have composure if we are to beat one of the best teams in the world."

England have traditionally carried the fight to Australia through their pack and once again they will hope to gain a foothold up-front, as most recently seen 11 months ago when the Wallabies were dispatched 26-17 at Twickenham.

The technique of loosehead prop Joe Marler has been questioned by former Australia coach Bob Dwyer, but his comments have been interpreted as an attempt to influence Saturday's referee Romain Poite

Rowntree has faith in Poite, who is known for his willingness to reward the dominant scrum.

Coaches are not permitted to speak with referees before World Cup matches, but Rowntree has been in frequent contact with Joel Jutge, World Rugby's match official commissioner.

"I've had a very positive conversation with Joel. I speak with him quite regularly on the scrum and other things. It was a very positive conversation and I'm happy with what we have to do.

"I have a lot of respect for Poite. French referees in particular have such composure around the set piece.

"Poite likes a scrum and referees most weeks in a league where scrummaging is paramount - the French Top 14.

"We've had some really good days at the office as a forward pack when Romain has been involved."

Rowntree insists Nick Easter - the only survivor from the 2007 World Cup when England lost to South Africa in the final - has had an important role to play this week.

Easter was called into the squad on Monday after Billy Vunipola was stricken by a knee injury and the 37-year-old and has been preferred ahead of James Haskell as back row cover from the bench.

"Nick was speaking to the lads about his experiences in these big pressure occasions," Rowntree said.

"Nick has spoken a lot about the Marseille game against Australia in 2007. I was lucky enough to be involved in that.

"I keep saying the word composure, about doing your job well in the heat of the battle and Nick has certainly been through a lot of those situations as a player and so have I.

"It's good to have Nick around. He has good nous and was very unlucky not to make the original cut."

Joe Launchbury has been recalled to the starting XV after Courtney Lawes was ruled out by a knee injury.

"It's a collective forward effort in the scrum. We don't focus too much on the referees and what they are bringing to the game," Launchbury said.

"It's a great opportunity for myself and the team as a whole. Like Graham said, we have trained all week and we are ready for it."

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