Get Newsletter

Player Ratings - England

This was the moment of real truth for Steve Borthwick’s England. He had lived up to his promise that he would have his underwhelming team ready for the tournament start on September 9, Argentina getting squeezed 27-10 despite Tom Curry’s third-minute red card.


From there, England progressed through the easier side of the draw, winning four more games to secure their semi-final qualification.

However, as witnessed on Friday night when the Pumas were mauled 44-6 by the All Blacks, the fear was that two levels of competition had unfolded at France 2023 and that the English would similarly chewed up and spat aside. Not so.

Try-less England were absolutely wonderful here, dominating the kicking battle in the wet conditions and tackling for their lives.

That attitude had them leading for a whopping 75 minutes of a tense, intriguing, edge-of-seat contest before getting cruelly overtaken when Handre Pollard’s long-range penalty edged the defending champions 16-15 in front.

What gave? The loss of the excellently defiant Tom Curry with his team 15-6 clear and just 11 minutes remaining. When play restarted, South Africa pounced for the converted RG Snyman try that set up the grandstand finish that the infringing English scrum couldn’t withstand. Here are the England player ratings:

15. Freddie Steward – 8
Recalled to help defuse the Springboks’ kicking game, he was safe hands personified in the wet conditions and it was his pressure chasing a Farrell kick that forced the spill which helped England get 9-3 up.


14. Jonny May – 6.5
His involvements were few and far between but eventually contributed when his chase of a kick near the interval was impeded by Pieter-Steph du Toit, handing Owen Farrell his kick for a 12-6 lead. Couldn’t prevent the grounding of the 69th-minute try and was subbed off for George Ford when play restarted.

13. Joe Marchant – 6.5
Knocked on under the Farrell kick-off and that was about it for his first half as a brutally narrow game simply didn’t unfold down his channel. It was a similar enough story in the second period and it was his misfortunate not to get enough sight of the ball to stop Snyman from scoring the try that set up a dramatic finish.

12. Manu Tuilagi – 7
Had only slightly more first-half action than Marchant but it was still very limited. Blamed for the tangle with Cobus Reinach that set off a 15th-minute dust-up. Carried well the couple of times he was invited onto the ball. Missed the end-game, though, as subbed on 74 minutes.

11. Elliot Daly – 7
Tasted more action than May on the other flank, it was his tapback of aerial ball that was critical in the lead-up to the opening England penalty. Continued in a similar manner after the break, his chase winning England a five-metre throw after a Farrell grubber.


10. Owen Farrell – 8
Nailed his four first-half kicks off the tee to give England a sniff of an upset, but wasn’t faultless as unnecessary verbals to referee Ben O’Keeffe cost 10 metres and put Libbok in range to kick the first South African points. Got his head back on the game after the interval, executing an excellent drop goal on 53 minutes and keeping his team on the front front.

9. Alex Mitchell – 7
Started sprightly, with good ruck surveillance helping to win England their opening penalty and he followed it with a smart touch finder. Illustrated how much he has grown since his early August call-up, often calling in an extra guard to the ruck before kicking clear. On the debit side, it was his ruck infringement that gave South Africa the penalty which sparked the Farrell verbals while he also missed a number of tackles. Gone on 53.

1. Joe Marler – 8
A rare recent stat for the veteran loosehead, he was excellent when you overlooked the couple of first-half penalties he gave up. Carried regularly with England seeking added yards to make good exits. A nuggety competitor who didn’t tolerate any Springboks nonsense. Excellent 53 minutes.

2. Jamie George – 7.5
Defiant the whole way through but can’t be pleased with some of his second-half throwing and scrummaging. The most costly moment was the crooked throw on 44 minutes with England just five metres out from the line.

3. Dan Cole – 8
Rolled back the years with a fabulous 56-minute demonstration of old-school tighthead prop play, clearing out breakdowns and minding his set-piece. Won a scrum penalty on 17 minutes and had the energy to punch the air when Farrell’s drop goal put England nine points clear 13 minutes into the second half.

4. Maro Itoje – 9
Welcome back to the Maro Itoje of 2017 British and Irish Lions frame. He was brilliantly effective in igniting English momentum, stealing the first opposition lineout, being a nuisance at the maul, and going after the ball in the contact.

5. George Martin – 8
What a story. Just a four-ever Test start for the 22-year-old, he was brilliant in his 53-minute involvement. Large presence at the breakdown, his carry to a ruck also earned Engaldn their second converted penalty kick and by the time he exited, he was his team’s second busiest tackler.

6. Courtney Lawes – 9
Started with a lazy-looking offside but that mishap was a short-lived blip as he was sublime thereafter. There was one smart grasp of a loose ball, a turnover that led to an England penalty at the next ruck, and other smashing turnovers along the way had England in a driving seat where he also carried often and intelligently.

7. Tom Curry – 9
England’s defensive linchpin was unfortunately in the wars. Needed off-field treatment late in the opening half and his limping departure on 69 minutes after a chart-topping tackle effort was pivotal, South Africa scoring off the next play.

8. Ben Earl – 8.5
Tipped the scales 13kgs lighter than his opposite number Duane Vermeulen, but that mattered not a whit as he exploded into this and had the time of his life.

Join free

Walk the Talk | Eddie Jones | The Australian Job

Aotearoa Rugby Podcast | Episode 17

Walk the Talk | Damian de Allende | The Most Underrated Springbok

All Blacks | In Their Own Words S2 | Episode 1: The Final

The perfect pre-Olympic preparation for France! Men's HSBC SVNS Madrid Day Three Highlights

Australia finish with GOLD! Women's HSBC SVNS Madrid Day Three Highlights

Big Jim Post Match Show - Leinster Rugby vs Toulouse

Greatness | Dan Carter

Japan Rugby League One Grand Final | Wildknights vs Bravelupus | Full Match Replay

Write A Comment