Rowntree first toured with the Lions to South Africa in 1997, making his debut in the 18-14 win over Border in East London on May 28. He made six non-Test appearances on the tour before finally earning his Lions Test bow some eight years later in New Zealand.
Having been overlooked for the 2001 trip to Australia, Rowntree was one of eight Leicester Tigers players included in Sir Clive Woodwardâ00s 2005 Lions squad to travel to New Zealand. He packed down against Argentina in the pre-tour game and then came off the bench in the last two Tests to add to his international honours.
In all, he made 12 appearances for the Lions, including nine starts, and he scored his solitary Lions try against the Emerging Springboks 11 years ago.
A Grand Slam winner with England in 2003, he was twice a winner of the Heineken Cup with the Tigers and he also collected four Premiership titles, two Pilkington Cups and a Courage League crown at club level.
A veteran of 398 appearances for Leicester between 1990 and 2007, he made his England debut as a replacement against Scotland in 1995. Rowntree won 54 caps for his country and went on to play in the 1995 and 1999 Rugby World Cups.
As soon as he retired from playing he joined the Leicester Tigersâ00 coaching staff as an assistant coach and he become part of the England National Academy in June 2007. He was appointed an England specialist coach in June 2007 and, in August 2008, became an assistant coach working with former Lions skipper Martin Johnson.
England's Graham Rowntree has joined the Lions coaching team
Rowntree on continuing his Lions career
Having only played his last game as a professional just 22 months ago, Rowntree is a relative newcomer to the coaching ranks and he admits he was taken aback by the call to join the Lions elite.
â00Of course, it came as a surprise,â0 said Rowntree, who will now embark on his second tour of South Africa with the Lions next summer.
â00It was fantastic. Iâ00m very new. I certainly didnâ00t expect to be part of the England coaching set up, never mind the Lions set up.â0
The invitation clearly surprised the hugely popular 37-year-old and his excitement at the prospect of being a Lion for the third time in 11 years was clear for all to see at Thursdayâ00s announcement at Heathrow Airport. The former John Cleveland College and Nuneaton prop knows the tour will be one of the toughest of all time but he is already looking forward to being a part of it.
â00What can I say? Itâ00s bordering on daunting but Iâ00m delighted and canâ00t wait to be involved with a special group of players and a special group of coaches,â0 added Rowntree.
â00Itâ00s the pinnacle of any playing career. Itâ00s a special thing to be chosen as a player for the Lions. To be asked to coach created the same kind of emotions for me.
â00Itâ00s a physical challenge. South Africa have always and will always pose a special physical and mental challenge, particularly in their own backyard and Itâ00s going to be incredibly difficult.â0
Rowntree (right) was a Lion as a player in 2005 and 1997
Despite the size of the task ahead, Rowntree is determined to emulate the feats of the â0097 tourists who returned home with a series victory the last time the Lions travelled to South Africa. As well as preparing the Lions fully as a scrum and assistant forwards coach, Rowntree knows that creating the same sense of togetherness and the same never-say-die mentality that encapsulated that tour will be vital if the Lions are to return to winning ways in 2009.
â00I remember in 1997, everyone had written us off. I wasnâ00t involved with that Test 22 but I was immensely proud to be part of it all. Itâ00s a special thing.
â00I see myself as assisting in any type of forward play, as well as getting the players understanding each other and working for each other. Itâ00s getting everyone on the same page and having the same mentality. A Lions tour means that much to every player and they will certainly rise to the occasion.â0