Player Ratings: Burying demons
OPINION: England wrapped up their Six Nations spring campaign with a 33-30 win over Wales at Twickenham.
With their March 14 game against Italy postponed and likely not to be played until October if at all, Eddie Jones’ men signed off a week earlier than originally planned having recorded impressive wins over Ireland and the Welsh to clinch the Triple Crown.
RugbyPass have rated all of the England players below as they began to slowly but surely dispel the demons of last November’s World Cup Final defeat.
15 Elliot Daly – 6
He moved over to the wing after an early injury to Jonny May and took his first-half try well. His positioning throughout was very solid, although there were a couple of missed tackles that the versatile back three player would want back.
14 Anthony Watson – 8
An eye-catching return to the England team for Watson whose footwork left Welsh defenders for dead on a number of occasions, including his first-half try. His work on the kick chase was equally impressive and his decision-making in defence also reflected well on him come the final whistle.
13 Manu Tuilagi – 7
England’s primary ball-carrier, Tuilagi was a consistent source of front foot ball for the home side at Twickenham. In addition to his trademark bulldozing carries, he also stepped up in the defensive line with some momentum-shifting tackles and was a weapon on the kick chase. Picked up a deserved try in the second half but also blotted his copybook with a late red card.
12 Owen Farrell – 8
A well-rounded and polished performance from England’s captain, who nailed all six of his kicks and kept his team ahead of Wales on the scoreboard. With the ball in his hand he linked well with Tuilagi and George Ford, while his defence was physical and accurate without earning the ire of the referee for anything verging on a high tackle.
11 Jonny May – N/A
The wing won back a contested ball on an early kick chase, but he suffered an injury in the process and wasn’t on the pitch long enough to influence the game too heavily.
10 George Ford – 7
Ford’s handling was pivotal to both Daly and Tuilagi’s tries and he thrived in the broken field situations. He didn’t necessarily pick Wales apart as first receiver and by squaring up the defence, but his contributions on the counter-attack and transition were influential. His kick-off in the second half that led to Justin Tipuric’s try was the one bad mark against him.
9 Ben Youngs – 8
It was one of Youngs’ best showings in an England jersey over the past couple of seasons as he pulled the side’s strings from nine. His box-kicking was impressive, his inside pass put Watson in for his try and his dart around the fringes made the ground and sucked in the Welsh defence for Daly’s score later in the first half.
1 Joe Marler – 7
Anchored the English scrum and exerted plenty of pressure on Wales. Picked up the slack as a ball-carrier close to the ruck, as well as defending influentially in the same area. Question marks over his ball-handling, though.
2 Jamie George – 6
As ever, George did the basics well at hooker and was successful with all five of his throws. He made his mark in defence and at the breakdown, although he was relatively quiet in attack away from the accuracy of his clear-outs.
3 Kyle Sinckler – 8
The tighthead started solidly, staying square in the scrum and showcasing his deft handling to link play. As the first half went on, he started to more aggressively go after the Welsh scrum and came to the fore as an impactful ball carrier after the interval. Physical around the fringes in defence, too.
4 Maro Itoje – 8
A nuts and bolts performance from Itoje, who was busy cleaning up loose balls on the deck, making big hits in the tackle at the forefront of England’s defensive blitz and taking over as the primary lineout target from Courtney Lawes. Seemed to get stronger and more influential the longer the game went on.
5 George Kruis – 7
Kruis’ energy in the defensive line was once again his point of difference in this England side as he bounced from tackle to tackle and breakdown to breakdown. His communication, industry and physicality as a defender was key to a number of Welsh attacks that were repulsed at Twickenham. He even sparked an England counter-attack with a great read for an interception.
6 Courtney Lawes – 7
The blindside made his presence felt on defence, dovetailing nicely with Kruis and Tom Curry as England’s workhorses on that side of the ball. He stepped up with some solid involvements in attack and at the breakdown, too.
7 Mark Wilson – 7
A solid return to the side after injury, Wilson was physical in defence for England and work hard clearing out at the breakdown. He couldn’t quite replicate Sam Underhill’s mobility or threat at the breakdown, but his contribution to England’s battle at the gain-line with Wales was noteworthy.
8 Tom Curry – 7
Curry was every bit as reliable dealing with the kicks into England’s 22 that Billy Vunipola usually is and showcased his mobility getting from contact area to contact area as well as chasing England’s kicks. He was also industrious as a carrier, although couldn’t quite break the first line of defence with the regularity he might have hoped for.
16 Luke Cowan-Dickie – 6
The arrival of Cowan-Dickie added an extra carrying threat for England, while he maintained his side’s set-piece efficiency.
17 Ellis Genge – 5
Bit the bullet for England with a yellow card for team infringements in the final ten minutes.
18 Will Stuart – N/A
Came on too late to have any real influence on the game.
19 Joe Launchbury – 6
Alongside Itoje he helped repel Wales’ late maul attacks on the England try line.
20 Charlie Ewels – 6
Like Launchbury, Ewels lent his sizeable frame and ability to England’s late defensive stands.
21 Ben Earl – 6
Showed off his mobility with a couple of good tackles in space as England saw out the final minutes with just 13 men.
22 Willi Heinz – 6
Helped England see out the win at Twickenham, although in truth there was little left for him to do in attack as Wales were camped in England’s 22.
23 Henry Slade – 7
Arrived into the game early due to May’s HIA, a change which quickly became permanent. He slotted in well at full-back and linked play with his passing, positioned himself effectively in defence and added another kicking option to an England backline that was already bursting with options. Made a try-saving tackle in the final ten minutes.
By Alex Shaw, @RugbyPass