Harlequins is proud to confirm today (Thursday March 16th) that Forwards Coach Graham Rowntree has been appointed as Assistant Coach for the British and Irish Lions ahead of their tour to New Zealand this summer.
Confirming the news, Rowntree said: “I am honoured to be asked to tour with the British and Irish Lions again and I really am thankful to Harlequins, John Kingston and David Ellis for allowing me to go.
“Having experienced the highs and the lows of the Lions as a player and a coach, I know how special it is. This year will be the ultimate challenge considering the form that New Zealand have been in across the last decade, but looking at the talent and potential in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, it is a hugely exciting opportunity for us to do something incredible.
“I am grateful and excited for the opportunity ahead, but my attention will firmly remain on Harlequins until the conclusion of our season.”
Capped 54 times by England, Rowntree made his Lions debut during the 1997 Tour to South Africa and toured eight years later in New Zealand.
After retiring from the game, Rowntree toured with the Lions as their Scrum Coach in 2009, and then in 2013 as Forwards Coach during the historic series win over Australia.
Ahead of the 2016/17 season Rowntree was appointed by John Kingston as Harlequins Forwards Coach.
Rowntree and Neil Jenkins will, along with fellow coaches Steve Borthwick, Andy Farrell and Rob Howley, complete the team headed by Warren Gatland. Rowntree will return to Harlequins following the Tour’s conclusion.
Harlequins Director of Rugby, Kingston added: “We’re delighted that Graham has been selected to help coach the British and Irish Lions this summer, it is a remarkable honour. It shows what great esteem he is held in and how highly regarded he is as an individual and as a coach.
“I have no doubt he will bring his excellent personal and coaching skills to the role and will do Harlequins proud on what, inevitably will be a tough tour.
“I’m looking forward to him sharing the benefits of this experience with the wider coaching group on his return and enriching all of us further as a result.”
Gatland said: “We all know what Neil and Graham bring – a huge amount of knowledge, experience and expertise at club, international and eight Lions Tours between them. They understand what it will take to win in New Zealand and to have them on board again is positive.
“I know Graham and Steve will complement each other and Neil will give us valuable backs and skills support. Given the schedule, with two games a week, having six coaches will allow us to devote enough time to ensuring we are successful.
“I believe we have a coaching team that will get the best out of what will be a highly talented and motivated group of players capable of winning the Test series.”
Graham Rowntree profile
Born: 18.04.71 | Stockton-on-Tees
Playing career: Nuneaton (1981-88), Leicester Tigers (1988-2007), Barbarians, England (1995-2006), British & Irish Lions (1997, 2005)
Coaching career: Leicester Tigers Assistant Coach (2006-07), RFU National Academy and England Specialist Coach (June 2007), England Forwards Coach (August 2008-2015), Harlequins Forwards Coach 2016-to date) British & Irish Lions Assistant Coach (2009, 2013)
Wig, as he’s affectionately known, has toured twice with the British and Irish Lions as a player in 2007 and 2005 and was a coach on both the 2009 tour to South Africa and the victorious 2013 tour to Australia.
With 398 appearances for Leicester’s first team, 54 caps for England and two caps for the Lions, Graham has a wealth of playing knowledge to draw on and that helped forge him into one of the top forwards coaches in the world.
Born in Stockton-on-Tees, Graham was educated at John Cleveland College in Leicestershire before joining Leicester Tigers from Nuneaton in 1988. Throughout the 90s he formed one part of the famous ‘ABC club’ alongside Richard Cockerill and Darren Garforth in the front row and went on to win five Premiership titles and three Heineken Cups.
His first full England cap came against Scotland in the Five Nations tournament in 1995 and he went on to play in the 1995 and 1999 Rugby World Cups.
Graham cut his coaching teeth at Leicester before being involved with the England National Academy. From there, Graham progressed to England Scrum Coach and then Assistant Coach as part of Martin Johnson’s backroom staff which won the 2011 Six Nations.
He remained England Assistant coach under Stuart Lancaster between 2012 and the 2015 Rugby World Cup before joining Harlequins in 2016.