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Player ratings - England

The hope from an English perspective was that this summer tour opener in Japan would see a continuation of the March attacking flourish witnessed in the final two rounds of the Six Nations.

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A creativity that previously didn’t exist in the Steve Borthwick era suddenly emerged on the back of the horrible February loss at Scotland.

In fielding a team showing just four changes from the dramatic high-scoring defeat at Lyon to France, three injury-enforced alterations, and the absence of Elliot Daly for personal reasons, England comfortably picked up where they left off on the front foot.

They did fall behind 0-3 after having little or no possession in the opening salvo but once they jumped in front with Chandler Cunningham-South’s 14th-minute try, they took over and had four tries heading down the tunnel at half-time with a 26-3 lead despite the greasy ball being reminiscent of the conditions encountered nine months ago in Nice when the teams last met at the World Cup.

That was ultimately a four-try, 34-12 pool win, but the English pushed on here against an opposition that had Eddie Jones at the helm for the first time in his second stint in charge.

Yet there was still disappointment as the margin of the eight-try, 52-17 victory would have been way more generous if they didn’t lose Marcus Smith to a yellow card, Charlie Ewels to a daft second red card in two successive Test appearances two years apart, and the concession of two quick-fire tries with their subs defensively too loose. Here are the England player ratings:

15. George Furbank – 7
Continued to be an important presence in the evolution of the England attack. It was his counterattack from deep that gave a glimpse of what his team might do, and his team player ethic was evident in the dummy line he ran in the move for the third try scored by Immanuel Feyi-Waboso. Showed his kicking ability as well by taking England restarts from the hallway.

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14. Immanuel Feyi-Waboso – 6.5
Didn’t have a ton of involvements and there were a few missed tackles, but he came alive when on the ball as evident not only in his 29th-minute finish but also his leg drive in contact on 48 minutes despite shipping a high tackle. Played 62 minutes.

13. Henry Slade – 7
Was a bit giddy in the early stages, as witnessed in the overcooked penalty that didn’t find touch, but he then settled and finished the first half with a superb catch in the air to score his team’s four-try.

12. Ollie Lawrence – 6.5
It was a full 23 minutes before we saw the midfielder but there were suddenly two huge ball-carrying contributions, a penalty-winning carry followed by the catch of the Jamie George lineout throw out the back around halfway that created the Smith try. Some missed tackles blotted his copy as did a no-release penalty just before the break.

11. Tommy Freeman – 7
Cut adrift by Jones but continued his comeback growth under Borthwick with another effective display where the highlight was a try-saving tackle in the first half. Is poised to go very well in New Zealand.

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10. Marcus Smith – 7
Will be pleased with how he unlocked the Japanese defence when the game was there to be won, taking his own try beautifully and then producing super assists for the Feyi-Waboso and Slade scores. Should scold himself, though, for his unnecessary yellow-carded no-ball tackle on Yoshitaka Yazaki, a sin-binning that ended his game early as he didn’t return when the 10 minutes were up.

9. Alex Mitchell – 8
His link play was so important in England running up a score after their backfoot opening period. He provided two try assists – for Smith and Earl – and was also the scorer of the 43rd-minute try when intelligently coming back against the grain to catch the Japanese defence off balance. Departed eight minutes later which is a day’s work very well done.

1. Bevan Rodd – 6
Troubled start included penalty concessions at the scrum and in the tackle, but he became more precise with his involvements when England asserted control. Exited on 44 minutes feeling good that his tackle count was healthy, and he wasn’t shy of trying things as he was the player who tapped quickly in the play for the Feyi-Waboso try.

2. Jamie George – 6.5
Skipper led his team well, keeping them composed during a sticky early spell before going on to dominate. Only played 44 minutes, but England was 33-3 up when he exited with the victory job well done. There were a couple of missed tackles and a penalty concession, but he carried well in the tight and his on-purpose lineout overthrow, which created the try for Smith, was a peach.

3. Dan Cole – 7
Tossed into the wilderness by Jones post-World Cup 2019, but he showed his former coach his renaissance under Borthwick continues to be the real deal once he recovered from an early bang that needed treatment. Scrummaged well across his 57 minutes, looked after the breakdown, and was so nearly handsomely rewarded as he wound up over the line on 48 minutes only for the decision to be held up. His cover a few minutes later meant the Smith yellow didn’t come with the concession of a penalty try.

4. Maro Itoje – 6.5
Not a display that featured highlight reel moments but his scrappiness was important in ensuring the England pack wrested control in the first half and ensured Japan never built on their early three-point lead.

5. George Martin – 7
His work at two defensive mauls was crucial during that initial period of Japanese dominance. Will be pleased with what followed with England taking charge but definitely won’t want to see a repeat of the Warner Dearns show and go in one of the consolation Japanese tries.

6. Chandler Cunningham-South – 7
This weekend last year he was a starter for England U20s in Paarl at the World Championship. Now, after four caps off the Test bench, he became a Test starter and he quickly showed why with his precise finish for his team’s first try when driven over by his back row colleagues. Finished joint top tackler with Martin despite departing before the hour mark.

7. Sam Underhill – 7
It was his not-rolling infringement that gave Japan their fleeting lead and while a knock-on followed, he then got on message and sure enjoyed himself. Looked to he finished on 51 minutes but he returned a few minutes later for Cunningham-South and his endeavor was rewarded by his 77th-minute try off a driving maul.

8. Ben Earl – 7.5
Another of the early penalty-conceding culprits, he soon snapped out of that lethargy to go on and have an impressive outing. Tackled and carried frequently, a work rate that led to his 49th-minute finish off a Mitchell pass.

Replacements:
Theo Dan (6.5) and Joe Marler (6) were 44th-minute introductions, with Will Stuart (6) completing the front-row alterations on 57. Tom Curry (6) completed his hip operation comeback with his 51st-minute introduction and he didn’t shirk the tackles, but it was a nightmare for England’s fifth forward replacement as Ewels (0), a 66th-minute sub, was yellow carded seven minutes later for a dangerous clear-out on Michael Leitch.

That yellow card decision was soon upgraded to red by the TMO bunker as “no mitigation” was evident, leaving the second row with the dubious record of two red cards in successive England appearances as he was also sent off versus Ireland in March 2022. Will that unfortunate record now spell the end of his Test career?

Of the three backs subs, Harry Randall (6.5) was the most effective as he scored on 58 minutes just seven minutes after he came on and he had Mitchell-like quickness in his pass. Fin Smith (6) had a difficult start, missing the tackle in the lead-up for Japan’s first try, while the debut-making Tom Roebuck (6) enjoyed one lovely break in his 18 minutes on the pitch.

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