Sun 20 Mar 2022 | 12:38

Player Ratings: Not good enough

Player Ratings: Not good enough
Sun 20 Mar 2022 | 12:38
Player Ratings: Not good enough
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OPINION: Despite a good second-half display, England slipped to a 25-13 defeat against Grand Slam champions France in a pulsating atmosphere at the Stade de France.

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This saw the visitors conclude a disappointing Six Nations in third place – where they head Scotland on match points difference.

After his well-resourced team finished fifth in Europe’s premier competition 12 months earlier, Head Coach Eddie Jones was subjected to a detailed ‘debriefing’ exercise by his RFU bosses which absolved him of all responsibility.

However, despite Autumn Series wins over Australia and South Africa, again finishing with two wins from five Six Nations starts suggests little has progressed in the intervening 12 months and with France 2023 now only 18 months away Jones surely has some serious questions to answer.

Most concerningly, England have scored only three tries against their four former Five Nations rivals while Jones’ endless selectorial tinkering has seen only five players start all five of their 2022 contests.

France led 18-6 at the break through tries from Gael Fickou and Francois Cros plus eight points from the boot of Melvyn Jaminet.

Marcus Smith kicked two penalties for England who then forced their way back into contention when the Harlequins’ no.10 converted Freddie Steward’s third-quarter try.

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However, Antoine Dupont’s 61st minute converted score eased French nerves whereafter les Bleus held on with relative comfort.

Paul Smith rates the England players:

15. George Furbank – 6.5
A controversial choice at full-back, the Northampton no.15 started confidently with a lovely floated pass to Nowell but then made a terrible error by taking a long kick into touch. Thereafter enjoyed a competent evening under the high ball in addition to countering usefully.

14. Freddie Steward – 7.5
Moved to the right wing with the objective of using his 6ft 5 frame to out-jump the considerably shorter Gabin Villiere, Steward claimed a couple of high balls with impressive leaps before going on to grab an important try early in the second half.

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13. Joe Marchant – 9
In the absence of any sizable midfield colleagues Marchant was regularly required to truck the ball into a pair of huge opponents which he did with some success including a brilliant line which created Steward’s try early in the second half. Another superb display.

12. Henry Slade – 6
Regularly used as a left-footed kicking option, Slade also worked hard to create with ball in hand.

11. Jack Nowell – 5.5
Lucky to avoid a card when referee Peyper found his clumsy aerial challenge on Mervyn Jaminet was the result of earlier French obstruction. Replaced by Elliot Daly – who then became the third specialist fullback in the visitors’ back three – after suffering a wrist injury in the 27th minute.

10. Marcus Smith – 8
Gave us an early indication of England’s game plan by kicking first phase ball away twice in the opening three minutes. Released Furbank with a lovely piece of footwork and well-timed pass to create his team’s best first-half attack. Kicked his goals reliably and kept the French defensive line guessing with an intelligent display in which he carried for a best-of-the-day 97 metres.

9. Ben Youngs – 6
His loose box kick gave France a good early attacking opportunity but England’s most-capped player otherwise put in another reliable display in which he measured his options to good effect.

1. Ellis Genge – 8.5
The visitors sprung a surprise by using the Leicester prop from deep as an open-field ball-carrier where he beat four defenders and made 78 metres in the first half. Scrummaging against the giant Uini Atonio, Genge was penalised on England’s second scrum feed then on France’s opening put-in. Made an incredible cover tackle which prevented Romain Ntmack from scoring.

2. Jamie George – 7
Blossomed with ball in hand as England enjoyed a bright spell after the break. Threw in reliably to an England lineout which functioned smoothly. Played the full 80 minutes.

3. Will Stuart – 6.5
England’s pack were in the unusual situation of being 50kg lighter than their opponents so the 130kg Bath prop brought useful heft in the tight and with ball in hand before giving way in the 50th minute.

4. Maro Itoje – 6
As ever, England’s talisman put himself about in the loose forcing a couple of useful turnovers in addition to playing his part in the tight.

5. Nick Isiekwe – 5.5
Solid enough in the lineout but Isiekwe, who made seven tackles, made no headway as a carrier.

6. Courtney Lawes – 7
Put in a big shift in both attack and defence, England’s skipper very much led from the front against huge and well-organised opponents.

7. Sam Underhill – 8.5
Making a first 2022 Six Nations start Underhill put in a typically uncompromising shift in which he tackled himself to a standstill (completing 11 in the first half alone) and battled hard on the ground.

8. Sam Simmonds – 6.5
England’s main back row ball-carrier lacked nothing in effort but found the French defence much harder to pierce than he does when wearing an Exeter shirt against club sides in the Premiership. England’s second most prolific tackler with 12.

REPLACEMENTS

16. Nic Dolly – Unused

17. Joe Marler – n/a
Took over from Genge with 15 minutes remaining.

18. Kyle Sinckler – 6
Replaced Stuart in the 50th minute and scrummaged steadily.

19. Ollie Chessum – n/a
Made an immediate impact by charging down Antoine Dupont after replacing Isiekwe on the hour mark.

20. Alex Dombrandt – n/a
Charged down a Jaminet drop goal attempt immediately after his 64th minute arrival before going very close to claiming England’s second try with a powerful run.

21. Harry Randall – n/a
Replaced Youngs in the closing stages as part of Jones’ last throw of the dice.

22. George Ford – n/a
Replaced Furbank with three minutes remaining.

23. Elliot Daly – 6
Replaced Nowell ahead of the half-hour mark and performed steadily in defence and as a kick chaser.

By Paul Smith, @RugbyPass

PV: 15
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