There were 54 caps for England, two tours with the British & Irish Lions and every domestic and European honour going in the northern hemisphere game with Leicester Tigers.
So when the so-called 2009 Lions' 'scrum doctor' talks about his great passion, the scrum, you listen. That's why his comments on the simmering row over the eye gouging in the second test last weekend are arguably the most revealing.
After all, he was involved in the hurly-burly of the scrum for 398 games with his club and played at the very highest level for well over a decade. He admits to having been gouged during his career, but says the prospect of doing something similar never occurred to him.
"I have been gouged, but I have never gouged anyone. I've seen Dean Richards knock-out a player for in France for gouging our Leicester team mate John Wells," said Rowntree.
"There is simply no room for it in the game. What advantage anyone thinks he is going to get from it, and how a player can think he can get away with it with so many cameras watching matches these days, is beyond me.
"Schalk Burger's reputation has probably been damaged by what has happened. It is an indefensible act and, as a coach, you can't defend your players.
"I was disgusted at the comments made by Peter de Villiers about the gouging and agree with what Brian O'Drsicoll said about it. For a coach, a national coach, coach of the world champions to almost condone it is ridiculous.
"I don't know Peter de Villiers, I haven't seen how he works, so I can only comment on his comments - and I was disappointed at them. It was completely out of order.
"It was a crass and pathetic comment to make and I am glad it is being investigated further. For a national coach to say it is almost OK is ridiculous and he can't get away with making comments like that."
As for the game itself last weekend, Rowntree was full of admiration for the way both teams produced what has been described as "a colossal test".
"It was physical, fast and emotional. A lot of people have refereed to it as the best Lions Test ever, which is quite a compliemtn, even if it doens;t make up for losing," he added.
"The guys gave everything to it. There was immense disappointment afterwards and we don't deserve to go home losing 3-0, and that's what driving us on this week.
"One thing we've nurtured on this tour is a great work ethic and a great bond between the players. I have no doubt they will all be up for it at the weekend and it's our job as coaches to facilitate that, train accurately.
"Historically, at the end of Lions tour, your squad are held together with a piece of elastoplast. But we have been very careful as to the amount of conditioning and training we have done and, aside from injury, we are still in very good nick and have plenty in the tank.
"Yes, we were battered and bruised emotionally and physically after last week, but I have no doubt they will be up for it come the weekend."