Player Ratings: Sigh of relief for Eddie
OPINION: After the horrors of the Calcutta Cup a week previous, England and Eddie Jones righted the ship with a solid 41-18 win over Italy at Twickenham.
There were still plenty of areas where England will feel unhappy about their performance, as attacks faltered in key moments, though it was a much-improved display than their showing against Scotland and showed what the side is capable of when they go out with an intent to keep the ball in hand, build multi-phase attacks and not subscribe to an unamendable structure.
Alex Shaw rates the England players
1. Mako Vunipola – 6
A solid but understated performance from Vunipola, which was to be expected given how long he has been away from competitive rugby. An early engage at the scrum aside, he did well in his first game back.
2. Luke Cowan-Dickie – 7
Jamie George’s place in the starting XV is not under threat after one poor performance but the additional explosion in the carry that Cowan-Dickie brought will not have gone unnoticed, either. He also nailed six of his seven lineouts and showed that he can be relied upon at the set-piece.
3. Kyle Sinckler – 8
Sinckler was a significant factor in England’s increased tempo and attacking fluency this week. He helped deliver a stable set-piece that was able to exert pressure on Italy, as well as stepping up as a ball-carrier and handler, capable of shifting the point of contact and unlocking the Italian defensive line.
4. Maro Itoje – 8
A typically effective performance from one of the few England players to come out of the Calcutta Cup with credit. Itoje was physical and quick off the line in defence, he was the go-to man at the lineout and repeatedly dented the Azzurri defence with his carrying and accurate clear-outs. He alone provided three turnovers for England.
5. Jonny Hill – 6
A solid outing from Hill, who earned his hard-fought pick and go try in the first half. He did the nuts and bolts well for England, even if Itoje’s overall impact in the loose was slightly more eye-catching.
6. Courtney Lawes – 7
After conceding an early penalty, Lawes bounced back well and had a profound effect on England’s attacking performance. In addition to the physicality he brought on both sides of the ball, his tip-ons and close-quarter handling was excellent, something which kept English attacks alive and the Italian defence scrambling and unable to reset.
7. Tom Curry – 8
When Itoje shines, so does Curry, in what is quickly becoming a weekly race for man of the match between the pair. Curry’s line speed and force in the tackle forced a couple of turnovers out of Italy, whilst his kick-chase work was every bit as effective as that of Jonny May and Anthony Watson, too.
8. Billy Vunipola – 6
If Vunipola had looked undercooked last week against Scotland, this was the performance of someone who was far more up-to-speed. He made some key defensive contributions and looked like a player with an extra 10 or 20 minutes full intensity in the tank than he did a week earlier.
9. Ben Youngs – 6
Youngs was able to control the battle for territory well when he put the boot to ball but there were a couple of occasions where his choice or execution of pass let him down and brought England’s attacks to a halt. He was able to maintain England’s higher tempo well, though.
10. George Ford – 6
Ford fit the game plan against Italy well and between himself, Owen Farrell and Henry Slade, England never lacked for a first or second receiver capable of making precise pass and putting a runner through a hole. A couple of defensive errors blotted the copybook, however.
11. Jonny May – 7
May’s first half finish will go down as one of the most spectacular in English rugby history and was a fine of example of the game awareness and athletic ability he brings. After being starved of the ball last week, he also popped up in the midfield multiple times, looking for both the ball and for space.
12. Owen Farrell – 7
It was not an error-free performance from Farrell, who missed two kicks against the Azzurri and had a couple of handling errors, but it was a performance which made those around him better. The quickness with which he was able to give England width was critical to the success that May and Watson had.
13. Henry Slade – 7
There was a nice balance to Slade’s game, with his array of carrying, passing and kicking skills proving potent. His presence in attack, with plenty of opportunities with the ball in hand, kept the Italians on high alert and, like Farrell, facilitated the success of those around him.
14. Anthony Watson – 8
Watson looked back at his deadly best at Twickenham on Saturday, with his dazzling footwork and electric turn of pace causing Italy plenty of problems. The step off his right for his first half try was borderline undefendable and his ability to almost always evade the first man created space and opportunity for England. The intercept try in the second half was a fitting cherry on top of a strong performance.
15. Elliot Daly – 5
A poor pass and defensive mistake early seemed to play on Daly’s mind as he ended up chasing the game. He couldn’t quite bring the same positive momentum in attack that his back three colleagues did but he kept his width well for a late try.
16. Jamie George – 6
Any inaccuracies at the lineout from the game against Scotland seemed to be long gone as George arrived from the bench and maintained England’s dominance at the set-piece.
17. Ellis Genge – 7
After being sent backwards in his carry, Genge brought threat with the ball in hand, plenty of energy and kept up the scrum pressure on the Azzurri.
18. Will Stuart – n/a
Came on too late to impact the game.
19. Charlie Ewels – 6
Opportunities were few and far between for Ewels to impact the game during the death, as England cruised to victory.
20. Jack Willis – 7
The back row showcased his enviable physicality with his second half try, as he absorbed the tackle and drove through for the try line. He sadly had to leave the game shortly after with what looked like a serious knee injury.
21. Ben Earl – 6
Earl didn’t have much of an opportunity to impact the game and his handling skills were on display as England turned the screw and finished off the game.
22. Dan Robson – 7
Robson brought threat as a ball-carrier and his quickly tapped penalty led to Willis’ try and killed off the game for England. That threat kept the Italian defence honest.
23. Max Malins – n/a
Came on too late to impact the game.
By Alex Shaw, Rugbypass