Player Ratings: The solid white wall
OPINION: After comfortably dispatching Georgia in their Nations Cup opener, England recorded their second victory over Ireland in the calendar year with an 18-7 win at Twickenham on Saturday.
It was a victory built on remarkable physicality, energy and speed in defence, and was as smothering a performance as you’ll have seen this side of the World Cup final win by the Springboks.
Rugbypass’ Alex Shaw rates the England Players
15 Elliot Daly – 6
One of the quieter players on the day for England. That said, he did nothing wrong and looked calm and composed throughout.
14 Jonathan Joseph – 7
Some solid carries and good defensive reads from Joseph and despite being a centre by trade, Ireland failed to test him out in the air or positionally with their kicking game.
13 Ollie Lawrence – 7
Lawrence’s confidence is growing at this level and he showed up well defensively against Ireland, as well as looking for the ball in attack more readily than he did against Georgia.
12 Henry Slade – 6
Not the most impact Slade has ever had on an English performance but there were one or two passes which cut out multiple Irish defenders and he shirked no responsibilities in defence.
11 Jonny May – 8
An exceptional outing for May, who crossed for two tries in the first half. His first was from a cross-field kick, the second from a length-of-the-field counter-attack. He was also effective in the aerial contest and with his smothering defence.
10 Owen Farrell – 7
A well-managed game from Farrell, whose tactical kicking kept England playing in areas of the pitch they were comfortable with. His line-speed in defence was also key to England’s victory, as he helped shut down a number of Irish attacks before they began.
9 Ben Youngs – 7
A lively performance from Youngs, who displayed plenty of the tempo and energy that his critics will often lambast him for lacking. Not spectacular but barely put a foot wrong in a strong team showing.
1 Mako Vunipola – 7
Vunipola helped England to a set-piece advantage of Ireland and was frequently on hand to meet Ireland’s power carriers close to the ruck, denying them any easy metres. A second half tackle that forced Bundee Aki back metres encapsulated his power and technique.
2 Jamie George – 7
Not quit the 100% accuracy at the lineout that George regularly turns in but with just one of his 12 throws off target, the set-piece was a strong foundation for England. He also popped up some good handling and carries in the loose.
3 Kyle Sinckler – 8
Sinckler put the heat on Cian Healy early at the scrum and was able to get himself into the game in the loose more frequently than he did against Georgia. Continued to impact the game positively deep into the second half.
4 Maro Itoje – 8
A typical infuriating performance from Itoje for the opposition, as he disrupted Ireland’s lineout and harassed their kickers for the entire game. He was also England’s favoured target at the lineout and gave his side a solid source of set-piece ball. Dominated the kick chase.
5 Joe Launchbury – 8
Launchbury was at his physical best on Saturday, repeatedly repelling Irish ball-carriers on or before the gain-line. He was a reliable lineout target for George, consistently disrupted the Irish throw and was even able to make an impact multiple times on the kick chase.
6 Tom Curry – 7
Trademark physicality and work rate in defence and at the contact area from Curry, who nullified much of the jackaling threat in the Irish side.
7 Sam Underhill – 8
The openside’s line speed in defence and accuracy and power in the chop consistently denied Ireland front-foot ball. He’s one-on-one tackle following Keith Earls’ break was almost certainly a try-saver, as it led to a turnover from Billy Vunipola.
8 Billy Vunipola – 8
Exactly the kind of influential performance Vunipola needed to dispel the doubters. His work as a ball-carrier, kick receiver and dominating defensively on the gain-line was thoroughly impressive.
16 Tom Dunn – n/a
Came on too late to have an impact.
17 Ellis Genge – 6
The loosehead offer a strong carrying option on 1st phase ball and helped kill off any lingering hopes Ireland had of launching a comeback.
18 Will Stuart – 6
The England scrum wasn’t as dominant after Vunipola and Sinckler departed but there were not a lot of opportunities for Stuart to influence the game.
19 Jonny Hill – 6
Replicated Launchbury’s physicality in contact after replacing him and helped see out the win for England.
20 Ben Earl – 7
The back rower put in some big shots defensively after replacing Underhill. He also won a turnover on Ireland’s lineout 5m out from England’s try line and harassed the opposition at the breakdown in an effective cameo.
21 Dan Robson – 5
Arguably was positioned too deep to prevent the short kick and try from Jacob Stockdale in the final 10 minutes.
22 George Ford – n/a
Came on too late to have an impact.
23 Max Malins – 5
Like Robson, Malins looked to be slightly too deep on the Stockdale try but other than that, he had limited chances to make an impact on the game after replacing Joseph.
By Alex Shaw, Rugbypass