Player Ratings: England shift to higher gear
OPINION: After a solid but unspectacular start to their World Cup campaign against Tonga, England moved through the gears and established their credentials with a 45-7 win over the USA in Kobe.
The result puts Eddie Jones and England firmly in control of Pool C, although they will know their biggest challenges still loom, with Argentina in Tokyo next week before finishing up against France in Yokohama in the last weekend of the group stage.
Jones opted to rotate in 10 new players into the starting XV against the USA and RugbyPass have rated the performances of all 23 England players below.
15 Elliot Daly – 6
Daly had a couple of moments where he brought his playmaking skill to bear in the midfield, although it was a quiet performance by his standards. There was very little for him to defensively or aerially, either.
14 Ruaridh McConnochie – 6.5
The former Sevens international was kept quiet in the first half but scored a deserved try in the second half for the work he had done in defence and in the aerial contests.
13 Jonathan Joseph – 7
England’s set-piece focus in the first half limited Joseph’s involvement, although he was much more influential in the second half. His pirouetting break saw him scythe through the US defence and tee up Joe Cokanasiga for England’s bonus point try.
12 Piers Francis – 6.5
The inside centre was an incisive carrying option for England initially, although he didn’t quite move the ball wide with the same regularity that Owen Farrell does in the role. He was potentially unlucky to avoid punishment for an early high tackle and made the most of that reprieve by adding significantly to England’s tight game in the first half.
11 Joe Cokanasiga – 7
Cokanasiga, like McConnochie, probably didn’t have the overall attacking impact he would have liked, despite grabbing two tries. He did offer a consistent physical carrying presence, though England kept the ball tight for vast periods of the game.
10 George Ford – 8
An effective game management role from Ford, who kicked the corners excellently for England’s set-piece then to go to work. His play on the gainline was also impressive and he spotted the space in the US defensive line well for his first-half try. He was successful with five of his seven kicks from the tee.
9 Willi Heinz – 6.5
Heinz had a positive impact with his box-kicking and tempo, all of which had England playing in the right areas of the pitch. He did cough up a couple of early penalties in the first half, as well as a knock-on, which did deny his side some flow, but it was a strong showing overall.
1 Joe Marler – 7
Marler held up his side of the scrum very effectively, whilst Dan Cole aggressively went to work on the tighthead side. The loosehead contributed significantly to what was a dominant set-piece performance from England.
2 Luke Cowan-Dickie – 8
One overthrow at the line-out aside, it was an efficient outing for Cowan-Dickie, who nailed 13 of his 14 throws. He was heavily involved as a carrier and was the driving force behind England’s dominant maul.
3 Dan Cole – 8
A performance that rolled back the years for Cole, with the tighthead consistently turning the screw at scrum time on the USA pack. His fringe defence was also physical and he played his part slowing down ball at the contact area and disrupting the opposition maul.
4 Joe Launchbury – 7
After a slightly bumpy start where he was counter-rucked easily at one ruck and knocked on in the tackle, Launchbury really grew into the game. He was an effective foil to George Kruis at the line-out, managed to steal a US throw and contributed a lot to England’s strong maul.
5 George Kruis – 8.5
Kruis dominated the aerial game for England, snagging nine line-outs and one steal on US ball. He was also the foundation of England’s mauling game and wrecked a couple of US mauls with his destructive work through the middle. He got through his fair share of carrying, too.
6 Tom Curry – 7.5
Curry is really taking to the role on England’s blindside and the physicality of his tackling, which forced a knock on, was particularly noticeable on Thursday. He also provided a carrying outlet close to the ruck and a lineout option. Seemed to be given a licence to roam in the second half and profited.
7 Lewis Ludlam – 8
The flank played his role in the physical arm wrestle at the gain-line and contact area in the first half, before being freed up to affect the game more as a ball-carrier after the break. He also contributed at the line-out, offering himself as a target, as well as snaffling up loose US ball. Pocketed himself a try in the second half.
8 Billy Vunipola – 6.5
The No8 was a threat when running it from deep, although it was a contained performance, with Mark Wilson replacing him at half-time. Grabbed a try from England’s driving maul before departing at the interval.
16 Jack Singleton – 6
The hooker connected with both of his throws after replacing Cowan-Dickie and was a willing carrier.
17 Ellis Genge – 7.5
A couple of bullocking runs from the loosehead after his arrival at half time and had plenty of success attacking the tiring US defence. He made himself known at the breakdown, too.
18 Kyle Sinckler – 7
Sinckler brought his expected impact as a ball-carrier and a playmaker and was only outshone by the even more dynamic arrival of Genge. He maintained England’s scrum dominance, too.
19 Courtney Lawes – 6.5
The lock offered a willing carrying option after replacing Launchbury and had some success with ball in hand.
20 Mark Wilson – 6.5
Wilson really picked up the slack as a carrier close to the ruck after Vunipola departed the pitch and it seemed to allow Curry to roam more and have success in the wider channels.
21 Ben Youngs – 7
One errant pass aside, Youngs brought positivity from the bench, with his breaks and awareness of space helping England tick along.
22 Owen Farrell – 6.5
The playmaker’s arrival suited perfectly what England tried to do in the second half, as his passing game was as influential then as Francis’ carrying had been before the interval.
23 Anthony Watson – 7
Watson offered electric breaks after coming off the bench and his ability to turn small holes into big gains was a spark plug for England in attack.
By Alex Shaw, @RugbyPass