In praise of Graham Rowntree: Glastonbury's loss will be the British and Irish Lions' gain

Bob Baker
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Rowntree also coached the Lions on their last two tours (Source: Getty)

After being axed by England as scrum coach in the post-World Cup clear-out, Graham Rowntree – or Wig, as he is known to his rugby chums – has been forced to cancel his trip to Glastonbury in order to form part of the British and Irish Lions coaching team for the summer tour to New Zealand.

Instead of wallowing in slurry, Rowntree will play a pivotal role masterminding how the tourists will take on their biggest challenge since 2005 as they return to the land of the long cloud to take on the greatest team in rugby.

Wig has quietly gone about his business, restating his credentials as a pre-eminent forwards coach at Harlequins, in the shadow of his ex-employer the Rugby Football Union. Cream has a habit of resurfacing. ‎

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The phrase “salt of the earth” is an appropriate expression to apply when describing the ex-Leicester man, although his identity is most easily given away when the plates of meat on each side of his head are referenced.

It remains a mystery to most how he has retained any auditory faculties while being a living exhibit of the most extreme form of cauliflowerification. His ears, however, are a symbol of the years he spent at the epicentre of Leicester’s scrum.

Like bosses, those that command the most respect are those that have the been-there, done-that credentials, and Graham’s are not only on his resume, they are attached to his body.


He knows the 16-man melee intimately; he is conscious of its tricks; he is cognisant of the force, the angles, and the pride that comes from having achieved 80 minutes of dominance.

He knows how to reassure the talented front-rower that has been humbled, often not through a lack of ability, but the product of a simple bad day at the office.

There will be some of those in New Zealand, and maintaining morale will be imperative to a successful tour.

Springbok Tendai Mtawarira – aka “Beast” – embarrassed Phil Vickery in the first Test of the 2009 Lions tour to South Africa. Vickery dominated the third. Rowntree was coach.

Although Wig will not be donning his wellies and bopping around like Worzel Gummidge on a dairy farm in darkest Somerset, he will again be involved in one of the most eagerly anticipated tours in rugby. Rock on.

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