Rowntree looks to ratchet up pressure on RFU chief Ritchie

Forwards coach Graham Rowntree is determined to make life even tougher for England’s new Rugby Football Union chief executive Ian Ritchie as he prepares the Red Rose to face Ireland at Twickenham.

Rowntree’s future with the national team — and that of interim boss,Stuart Lancaster — is up in the air while Ritchie decides who should be appointed as England’s new permanent head coach.

After Jake White last week ruled himself out of contention, the RFU would appear to have a straight choice between Lancaster and Nick Mallett to lead England into the 2015 World Cup on home soil. The clamour for Lancaster to continue would increase again if England were to sign off from the RBS 6 Nations with a home win against Ireland, having beaten France 24-22 in Paris last weekend.

And Rowntree believes that is the best way for him and for Lancaster to stake their claim for permanent future employment at Twickenham.

“All we can do is do our jobs daily,” Rowntree said.

“We have enough on our plates worrying about the game at the weekend. Everything else will take care of itself if we get the short-term things right.”

With a third Grand Slam in eight years at stake in Cardiff, skills coach Neil Jenkins says Wales will not be underestimating a wounded France on Saturday. Last weekend’s 24-3 victory over Italy has set Wales up for another clean sweep, and they will meet a France side who have seen their own title hopes ended by two poor home performances, the draw with Ireland and last weekend’s defeat to England.

France coach Philippe Saint-Andre has responded to that defeat by making six changes to his squad as Julien Pierre, Fulgence Ouedraogo, Dimitri Yachvili, Alexis Palisson, Florian Fritz and Jean-Marcellin Buttin have all been called up.

But Wales have a poor record against the French, losing 11 of the last 14 meetings between the sides, including the heartbreaking World Cup semi-final reverse in Auckland in October.

With that in mind, Jenkins said: “We are playing a side who we have not beaten since 2008, they are a very good side and were very unlucky not to win the World Cup final.

“We are under no illusions as to what is ahead of us on Saturday. They are a fantastic side with some great players and that defeat on Sunday will have hurt them more, and they will want to prove a lot of people wrong.”

At the other end of the Six Nations table, Ross Ford has described how his Scotland team are desperate to make amends for their lacklustre showing in Dublin with a victory in Italy on Saturday to avoid the wooden spoon.

After promising showings, albeit in defeat, against England, Wales and France, Scotland’s progress was brought to an abrupt halt by that 32-14 loss in Dublin.

The defeat extended Scotland’s winless run to six matches and meant for the third successive year, a win on the final weekend of the championship is a must to avoid the ignominy of finishing last. However, Ford remains bullish about his side’s prospects.

“Things on the pitch haven’t been ideal but we’ve shown a lot of improvements from where we were last season,” he said.

“We could have had more wins than we have just now, but it’s down to our own doing.

“The boys are just desperate to get a win for all that effort we’ve put in — we need something to show for it.”

Scotland will be without Lee Jones for the game in Rome. The wing was ruled out yesterday with concussion following a sickening clash of heads with Andrew Trimble in Dublin.


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