Player ratings: Back on track
OPINION: England got their Six Nations campaign back on track at Twickenham this afternoon, beating Italy, 57-14, in a thoroughly one-sided contest.
The hosts were in a different league to their opponents right from the word go and will be pleased with how effectively they started both halves. A lack of composure cost them two or three further tries, but overall it was an encouraging display from Eddie Jones’ men.
Alex Shaw rates all 23 of England’s players below.
15. Elliot Daly – 8
A weaving run from Daly in the first half set up Jonny May for a try and it was an example of a number of counter-attacks and general ball-carrying threat from the full-back. He popped up as a second receiver on a number of phases and gave England an alternative passing option outside of Owen Farrell. His late break set up Dan Robson’s first international try.
14. Joe Cokanasiga – 9
The wing was a big part of giving England the early momentum that they used to rack up an unassailable score-line. He was winning back ball for his side in aerial contests, chased kicks hard and was a constant source of metres with the ball in hand. His offloading nearly unlocked the Italian defence on two occasions in the first half, only for England to knock-on or make an error in the subsequent pass, but he was rewarded in the second, with Robson collecting an inside ball for a try. He also appeared as a strike runner in the midfield, feeding off of Farrell, and later George Ford, on the gain-line.
13. Manu Tuilagi – 8
He reminded everyone of his devastating ability with ball in hand. He ran in one try from over 40m out after breaking the tackle of Angelo Esposito and then fending off Michele Campagnaro, whilst another similar break saw him tee up Brad Shields for a try. He was caught tight defensively a few times, however, as he stayed in close to Ben Te’o, and Italy were able to turn the corner. His ball placement was also excellent and helped England play at tempo.
12. Ben Te’o – 6
The inside centre was a safe pair of hands fielding kicks and showed good line-speed when blitzing close to the ruck. England’s defence was noticeably narrower than it had been in recent weeks, though, and their horizontal mobility was not as impressive as their vertical speed.
11. Jonny May – 6
A quiet performance by May’s standards, but he did well to keep his depth and finish off Daly’s break in the first half. He chased kicks and harried Italian jumpers well, but England tended to attack through the midfield and were more effective moving the ball to the right wing and Cokanasiga. Typically good in the air.
10. Owen Farrell – 7
The fly-half was successful with five of his six kicks and after a slightly hesitant start, quickly looked back to his clinical best. His play on the gain-line was typically fearless and effective, and he made a number of powerful one-on-one tackles.
9. Ben Youngs – 6
Youngs brought a good tempo to the game, albeit a couple of his passes lacked a little precision and saw opportunities go awry. His awareness of space and numbers was effective, although he won’t look back favourably on a couple of missed tackles that saw the Italian attack catch him flat-footed.
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1. Ellis Genge – 8
The loosehead fitted perfectly into the England pack, reading the game well and coming onto the ball at speed in attack and making good defensive reads as a blitzing tackler. He won a scrum penalty out of Simone Ferrari and was strong at the set-piece. He also chipped in at the contact area and showed good hands to link play with other forwards.
2. Jamie George – 8
George nailed all six of his lineouts, including rumbling the first one over the try line through a well-constructed maul. There was a tempo to England’s lineouts, too, that made the unit even more effective. He stepped up with a precise, looped miss-pass for Tuilagi’s second try, too.
3. Kyle Sinckler – 8
Sinckler consistently turned the screw at scrum time against Andrea Lovotti and gave England a strong foundation at the set-piece. His defence around the fringes was watertight and he kept himself busy as a ball-carrier, despite being forced into a knock-on in contact on one occasion.
4. Joe Launchbury – 7
The lock stepped up with three lineout takes and was effective disrupting the Italian maul. He got caught as the inside man for Tommaso Allan’s first half try, but England were short on numbers and he was typically busy in defence.
5. George Kruis – 9
Kruis consistently put pressure on the Italian kickers, forcing them into hurried kicks and poor angles, one of which saw him charge the ball down, regather and go over for a try. Another charge down brought Shields his second try. He took five lineouts, managed to muddy Italian throws and was powerful on the gain-line as a carrier and a tackler. A knock-on on an kick into England’s 22 was one blot on his copybook.
6. Brad Shields – 8
The flanker started tentatively, with a forward pass and a bit of overplaying on the floor, both of which conceded possession, but his first half try acted as a catalyst. He quickly grew into the game and was impactful with his work at the contact area and as a support runner. His work rate was rewarded late with a second try.
7. Tom Curry – 7
A solid outing for Curry, although perhaps not quite as effective as his recent showings in the white jersey. He knocked on an offload from Cokanasiga early and conceded a penalty for going off his feet at the breakdown. He couldn’t quite force Italy into the turnovers he did against Ireland and France, but brought good line-speed in an otherwise strong defensive showing.
8. Billy Vunipola – 8
Vunipola was a safe pair of hands at the back, fielding a number of kicks, and was a pressure-relieving carrying option. He wasn’t afraid to play in that area, either, and was able to unleash Cokanasiga for a big break up the field. He stepped up, in his brother’s absence, as a tackler, carrier and link man close to the ruck. He ran a number of effective out-to-in lines that brought England front-foot ball.
16. Luke Cowan-Dickie – 6
The hooker was accurate on all three of the lineouts he had after replacing George, but didn’t have too much opportunity to influence the game outside of that.
17. Ben Moon – 6
He was pinged for collapsing at his first scrum, but redeemed himself by winning a penalty on the next set-piece. He was strong defensively around the fringes.
18. Dan Cole – 6
The tighthead anchored the scrum well and picked and went well from the contact area.
19. Nathan Hughes – 6
He was penalised for a high tackle but then quickly bounced back by winning a turnover.
20. Mark Wilson – 6
The flanker made a number of dominant tackles after replacing Curry.
21. Dan Robson – 7
Robson showed the value he offers as an impact sub, collecting his first international try after supporting Cokanasiga’s break.
22. George Ford – 6
A bit of a mixed bag after he threw an intercept pass shortly after coming on, but he connected with both of his conversion attempts.
23. Henry Slade – 6
He looked lively, showing good footwork and power in the carry, as well as mobility to cover wide defensively.