England pack improving - Rowntree

Hampshire Chronicle: England forwards coach Graham Rowntree has sent out a warning to their rivals England forwards coach Graham Rowntree has sent out a warning to their rivals

Graham Rowntree has warned England's 2014 RBS 6 Nations title rivals that the Red Rose pack will only grow stronger.

Last year's 30-3 rout by Wales in Cardiff when England were one victory away from completing the Grand Slam raised concerns over the forwards' physicality.

But an impressive autumn saw them stand toe to toe with Australia, Argentina and New Zealand and now they possess an eight that will be feared across the Championship.

"I'm pleased with how we're progressing, particularly in that last game against New Zealand," forwards coach Rowntree said.

"New Zealand are the best team in the world and we reeled them in to 22-20.

"What I liked was that the blend of our game was good in terms of our set piece and carrying. You must have threats across the field in every fact of the game.

"Towards the end of the game we had a couple of slip ups at the line out which we can't afford to do.

"They're the learnings we take, but I'm happy with the way we're going.

"There's lots more to come. Test level, as I say to the lads, is about doing lots of little things exceptionaly well.

"We have to learn to do those for 80 minutes. That's the progression for us and it will come with experience."

England's pack will face its greatest challenge of the Six Nations in Saturday's seismic opener against France in Paris.

Les Bleus finished bottom of the table last year, but, having negotiated a two-week training camp with the Top 14 clubs prior to the Championship, they are expected to challenge for the title over the next two months.

"Some of the highlights of my career were winning in France and that was both at club and international level," Rowntree said.

"I have a lot of respect for them and there's no such thing as a weak French team, regardless of what happened last year. I have too much respect for them to believe that."

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