The former Tigers, England and Lions prop joined XV Club members in the Goldsmiths Stand before the Heineken Cup match against Montpellier, took part in a question-and-answer session and met supporters as he followed last year’s selection Rory Underwood as an XV Club legend.
“It is a great honour, especially to follow Rory Underwood – that’s a real legend!” said Rowntree, now scum coach for England and the 2013 Lions.
Rowntree joined Tigers from Nuneaton in 1988 and made 398 first-team appearances, a figure topped by only five men in the club’s 130-year history. He also gained 54 caps for England and went on two British & Irish Lions tours.
He was a key part of the famous ABC Club front row alongside Richard Cockerill and Darren Garforth, shared in two Heineken Cup Final victories and five Premiership title wins with Tigers.
“People say to me ‘398 appearances? Why not 400?’ and I tell them I was hanging on at the end just get to 398!” joked Rowntree
“I remember my first game, against Oxford University in 1990, and played for seven seasons as an amateur before the game went professional. There was a group of us including Johnno, Matt Poole, Backy, Garforth and Cockerill who all came through together and grew up together in the team.”
Rowntree identified the 2001 Heineken Cup Final win in Paris as his greatest memory in a Tigers shirt, recalling the emotions of the day and the tension of playing in a nailbiting encounter.
The first Leicester player to receive a European Elite award after 50 appearances in the Heineken Cup, Rowntree made his final club appearance against Argentina at Welford Road in February 2007.