Player Ratings: England
OPINION: Forty-eight days after a 14-man England comprehensively defeated Argentina 27-10 in the Pool D opener in Marseille, Steve Borthwick’s squad brought the curtain down on their World Cup campaign with a 26-23 bronze final win against the Pumas in front of a 77 674 in Paris.
They were 13 points up in as many minutes, Owen Farrell adding three kicks to Ben Earl’s well-finished eight-minute try, but that express start soon fizzled out and the lead was cut to 16-10 at the break with Tomas Cubelli’s Argentine try.
A breathless start to the second half followed. Santiago Carreras converted his own try after eluding three England tacklers, but he was mugged within seconds of the restart with Theo Dan, one of those missed English tacklers, charging down a clearance kick to score. It was the game’s crucial score.
Three penalty kicks followed, two to Argentina, in an error-ridden final half-hour that eventually ended with England just about doing enough to hang on to their three-point lead and secure a third-place finish at a tournament they weren’t at all fancied to do well at. That is a decent achievement despite their generally blunt attack.
Here are the England player ratings:
15. Marcus Smith – 5.5
Thankfully recovered from his quarterfinal concussion, he had a mixed bag. Gave the assist pass for the Earl try but on the downside, he took a heavy bang when losing one aerial contest and then gave up a penalty after winning the next duel as he got trapped on the floor with no release. Generally too loose in his play on attack, he also missed too many tackles by getting bumped off.
14. Freddie Steward – 6.5
Was a Stade de France try scorer in March 2022 in his previous start in the wing and he showed some promise here with the ball at times making it to the edge on his side of the field. Competitive in the air, but a couple of tackles were missed.
13. Joe Marchant – 6.5
His last Test for a while as he is staying in Paris after the tournament to join Stade Francais, this was slow going for him but he can hold his head very high after an incredible run of selection in recent months.
12. Manu Tuilagi – 5.5
Given little room to manoeuvre with the ball in the tight squeeze and only figured marginally in defence with a low tackle count during his 56 minutes.
11. Henry Arundell – 2
Another who will continue on in Paris at a new club (Racing 92), the scorer of five tries versus Chile in his only game until this was sadly starved of possession in his 66 minutes and he exited with the whitest of white England shirts. Took 48 minutes to touch the ball only for his scuffed kick to tempt Will Stuart offside despite Arundell making the catch. His only other note was getting flat-footed around halfway at the start of the move that led to the first-half Argentina try.
10. Owen Farrell – 7.5
Practiced a load of drop goals in the warm-up but never got the opportunity to try and put one over in the game. Viewed as the pantomime villain by the partisan crowd but that didn’t put him off his stride as he slotted four first-half kicks off the tee and two more in the second for a total of 16 points. Ran more than usual with the ball, his only frustration being not getting low enough to stop Cubelli from diving in. Shifted to the centre for the closing 24 minutes to accommodate George Ford.
9. Ben Youngs – 6.5
Au revoir to the England’s men’s record caps holder. He will be fondly remembered, although his 51st-minute exit didn’t get the ovation it should have deserved. Varied his game while on the pitch, but there were a couple of instances when precision eluded him while he was also a missed tackler at the line with Farrell for the first Argentina try.
1. Ellis Genge – 7
Was understandably keen for this after giving away that infamous scrum penalty at the death in last weekend’s semi-final. His pent-up vigour across his 50-minute appearance was evidenced in a forcible carry at 10-0, and he would have enjoyed the knock-on forcing, chunky heave England gave when Argentina scrummed down a first-half penalty 10 metres out.
2. Theo Dan – 7.5
Finally given a run after three successive games as an unused sub, he illustrated he has a more dynamic style in his 54 minutes than the abrasive Jamie George. Look at how he daintily stepped through the ruck in creating the opening try for Earl and he then charged down the early second-half Carreras kick to regather and score. That was just as well, as he poorly slipped off a tackle on the try-scoring Carreras just moments earlier.
3. Will Stuart – 6.5
His tournament petered out last month, but this was a nice 50-minute reminder to post to head coach Borthwick that he does have his uses. Was leading the early-game tackle count and there were no issues with his set-piece reliability. The offside penalty that gave Argentina points just before he exited was a soft concession, though.
4. Maro Itoje – 8
Turned back the clock last week to his world-class days and while those same heights were understandably not reached here, he was still a major reason why England eventually pocketed their bronze.
5. Ollie Chessum – 7
Would have been deeply wounded getting dropped from last weekend’s starting line-up after such an industrious run of first-choice selection. This 70 minutes of grunt was a good riposte.
6. Tom Curry – 7.5
After a week of feeling the wrath of social media, it was a lovely touch leaving him to run out on his own before the anthems on the occasion of his 50th cap. Lovely too that he was soon winning the opening penalty with a trademark poach at around the same time in this game where he was sent off seven weeks ago against the Pumas. Played 50. Lovely hurling, including a double-digit tackle count.
7. Sam Underhill – 9
First appearance for this mid-tournament call-up for the injured Jack Willis, his carry generated the ruck penalty for Farrell to put England 13 early points up and he continued to be effective on the ball. However, it was his all-action effort on the other side of it that convinced RugbyPass that should have been the bench option in the knockout games rather than the out-of-sorts Billy Vunipola. Credited with a lung-bursting 24 tackles. Wow!
8. Ben Earl – 8.5
His country’s player of the tournament, it was fitting that he raced in for an eighth-minute try and then came up with a hugely important turnover penalty on 53 with England heavily under the pump in their 22. Tasty stats on both sides of the ball.
16. Jamie George – 6.5
Given 26 minutes to try and take the sting out of the contest and bring England home.
17. Bevan Rodd – 7
Double-digit tackle count in his 30-minute appearance. Won the scrum penalty for England to go 26-20 up on 65.
18. Dan Cole – 7
Another with a 30-minute appearance and a meaty tackle count. Brought his trademark physicality.
19. David Ribbans – No rating
The third player involved who will stay on in the Top 14 (Toulon), he was only given 10 minutes at the end.
20. Lewis Ludlam – 6
Was excellent off the bench last month but his 30 minutes here were less energetic than that magical tackle-frenzied night in Marseille.
21. Danny Care – 6
Keep England ticking along in his 29 minutes, but won’t want to be reminded about his brutal drop-goal attempt.
22. George Ford – 6
Given 24 minutes stationed at out-half, it was his offside that gave Argentina their final penalty points.
23. Ollie Lawrence – 5.5
A 66th-minute introduction, his involvement were limited.