Player Ratings: Just tactically better
OPINION: England head coach Eddie Jones was rewarded with a fairly emphatic display from his side in their 24-12 win over Ireland at Twickenham on Sunday.
It was a much-improved display from the disappointing loss to France in the opening round, as well as a more stringent test of every aspect of the side than the game in Edinburgh in the second round.
We have run the rule over all 23 of England’s players, as they breathed life into their Six Nations title aspirations and denied Ireland a shot at the Grand Slam or a Triple Crown.
Alex Shaw rates the England players
- Elliot Daly – 7
A consummate display from Daly, whose hard work was rewarded when he chased George Ford’s kick through and beat Jacob Stockdale to dot the ball down. The full-back also won several aerial balls on chased kicks and his own work with the boot was incisive and influential in the battle for field position.
- Jonny May – 7
The wing was living on scraps a little in terms of the ball being in his hands, as England repeatedly punished Ireland with their kicking game, rather than their width. May contributed significantly to that, though, as his energy and work rate on the chase, as well as his ability in the air, caused the visitors at Twickenham plenty of problems.
- Manu Tuilagi – 8
Tuilagi’s impact was felt quickly by Ireland, as he was England’s go-to weapon off the top of a well-functioning lineout. His appearances at 12 and running back against the grain caught the Irish defence out on multiple occasions and laid the platform for England’s first two tries. He was a bit quieter as the game went on and made a couple of handling errors, although it was certainly a positive performance overall.
- Owen Farrell – 8
He was lucky not to see a yellow card for holding on to CJ Stander’s leg at a breakdown, though that indiscretion aside, Farrell’s impact was keenly felt by England. The centre was successful with all four of his kicks at goal and his kicking from hand was consistently effective, whether finding space, distance or England’s chase. A couple of fizzing miss-passes were unlucky not to end up in tries, too.
- Jonathan Joseph – 7
Joseph passed all the tests that everyone knew were coming his way, as he dealt well with the aerial contests and his positioning on the pitch gave no indication that this was his first international start on the wing. His footwork impressed, especially when he came off of his wing and looked for work in the midfield.
- George Ford – 8
A strong outing for Ford, with his early try a tone-setter for the oft-criticised English fly-half. The Leicester Tiger had plenty of joy with his kicking game from hand and though one of his kick-passes was inadvisable, his decision-making in general was very good. His interplay with Farrell and Tuilagi was potent and Ireland struggled to read and stop it.
- Ben Youngs – 7
One or two early errant passes aside, it was a much-improved performance from Youngs after his struggles in Paris. His box-kicking was contestable throughout and clearly in sync with England’s chase, whilst his spotted the space well for Ford’s early try. He played with tempo and England flourished as a result.
- Joe Marler – 7
The loosehead will have enjoyed his contest with Tadhg Furlong and edged the scrum battle with his British and Irish Lions teammate, even squeezing a penalty out of the Irish tighthead. He profited as a first receiver and on the pick and go, too, making England some valuable yards close to the ruck.
- Jamie George – 7
The Saracen successfully connected with seven of his eight throws and the English set-piece ticked along nicely during his time on the pitch. Perhaps his biggest impact, though, was with his increased ball-carrying, where he frequently found gaps and weak shoulders in Ireland’s fringe defence.
- Kyle Sinckler – 6
Sinckler came under some early pressure from Cian Healy, although he survived it and helped give England parity at the scrum moving forward. His customary pop passes and quick hands as a ball-player also brought England a level of joy, too.
- Maro Itoje – 8
The lock was a defensive nuisance throughout the game, slowing Irish ball at the breakdown, charging down Conor Murray’s box-kick and bringing remarkable line-speed and tackle accuracy in the midfield. His physicality in the tackle was also telling, as he stripped the ball in one collision and repeatedly drove Irish carriers backwards.
- George Kruis – 6
Kruis barely put a foot wrong at Twickenham, although other forwards will steal the headlines with the efficacy of their involvements. Kruis marshalled England’s defence around the fringes well and badgered the Irish lineout.
- Courtney Lawes – 8
Another player who successfully dispelled his Parisian demons, if he had any, as the converted lock was the target for all seven of England’s successful first half lineouts. The Northampton Saint also made a big impact with his ball-carrying by shouldering plenty of the burden for front-foot ball with the English front row.
- Sam Underhill – 8
With England’s tight five and Lawes picking up the slack with the physical grunt work, it seemed to free up Underhill to play his most effective role, that of a defensive momentum-shifter. His physical tackles, impressive line-speed and breakdown jackaling all showed up at Twickenham and helped England deny Ireland any quick ball on the front-foot.
- Tom Curry – 7
Similar to Underhill, the work done by other members of the pack allowed Curry to roam a little more and have a bigger influence on the game. The back rower popped up in the wider channels as a ball-carrier on multiple occasions and the fact he wasn’t having to do the laborious work close to the ruck saw him utilise his mobility and succeed in the open spaces.
- Luke Cowan-Dickie – 7
The hooker was 100% accurate with his lineouts after replacing George and even popped up with England’s third try of the game from an ensuing maul.
- Ellis Genge – 7
The loosehead went after Andrew Porter aggressively following his introduction and is looking every bit effective enough to start for England, should they want him to.
- Will Stuart – 6
England’s scrum parity and at times advantage was maintained when Stuart replaced Sinckler and it will be encouraging to Jones that his mobile ball-carrying props are improving swiftly at the set-piece.
- Joe Launchbury – 6
Put in a solid defensive showing as England saw out the game from a position of strength.
- Charlie Ewels – 6
Ewels came on at No 8 for England, before shifting to blindside when Ben Earl arrived from the bench. His impact was solid in the limited minutes and his position at the base of the scrum could be cause for debate moving forward.
- Ben Earl – 6
A brief glimpse into his ball-carrying and ball-handling ability, though there were few opportunities for him to showcase them more vividly in the dying minutes.
- Willi Heinz – 6
Solid game management from the scrum-half, as England went into cruise control in the final quarter of the game.
- Henry Slade – 6
A couple of physical tackles as the clock wound down late in the second half.
By Alex Shaw, Rugbypass