Graham Rowntree expects one of most competitive Six Nations

The former England and Lions loosehead believes that with the form shown by teams in the autumn set to carry forward, Ireland are in with every chance.
Graham Rowntree expects one of most competitive Six Nations

Munster defence coach Graham Rowntree. Picture INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Munster forwards coach Graham Rowntree reckons this season’s Six Nations will be one of the most competitive in years.

The former England and Lions loosehead believes that with the form shown by teams in the autumn set to carry forward, Ireland are in with every chance.

He has been hugely impressed with what Andy Farrell, his former England and Lions coaching colleague, has done since taking over from Joe Schmidt and expects Ireland to be strong contenders.

“I think it will be very competitive. There are so many teams showing good form in that autumn series, none more so than Ireland.

“What Faz (Farrell) and those lads have done — a great victory against New Zealand, in particular — and the French, they are coming good. And I think that has helped French club rugby as well from what I can see.

“So, the usual suspects, I think it will be a great tournament but you can’t ignore the form of those teams from the autumn series,” said Rowntree, who joined Munster over two years ago after working with Georgia at the World Cup.

And with nine Munster players in the Irish squad, can it be taken that he will be shouting for the boys in green when they clash in Twickenham on March 12?

“Of course!” said the 50-year old, who won 54 caps for England, three for the Lions, and played almost 400 games for Leicester Tigers.

And while Rowntree will be keeping an eye on the Six Nations, his primary concern, of course, will be helping to steer Munster through their URC games when the internationals are away.

That series starts in Parma on Saturday against Zebre. Munster will then travel to Glasgow the following week before entertaining Edinburgh at home on February 18.

Their festive clash with Leinster, which fell victim to Covid, will take place on the final weekend of the season, May 20-22, but it remains to be seen if this can take place at Thomond Park because of the Ed Sheeran concert.

In the meantime, their busy window during the Six Nations will continue against the Dragons on March 5 before returning to South Africa for the re-fixed clashes against the Bulls and the Lions, which were also postponed before Christmas due to Covid and led to the squad being stranded there.

They will return from South Africa to host Benetton in Musgrave Park before taking on Leinster at the Aviva Stadium and then the two Champions Cup clashes against Exeter Chiefs.

Rowntree said the games during the Six Nations would give fringe players the opportunity to stake claims. He said it is a great boost to go into these matches on the back of a 45-7 win over Wasps in the Champions Cup last weekend.

“It was brilliant in so far as to get that performance, to get that result in front of the fans. We needed that, everyone needed that and we played some good stuff.

“We did well in terms of territory, momentum and as we would say, we got on top of the team in terms of carrying at them, which is not something we have done a lot of, of late, and we scored some cracking tries, didn’t we?

“So it was very pleasing but there’s always stuff to work on and we have had a look at that. But for momentum and for confidence it was brilliant for us,” added Rowntree.

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