England Player Ratings versus the Barbarians

England got their summer schedule underway with a 35-26 victory over the Barbarians. A winning start is always good, but the Barbarians didn’t put up much of a defensive fight, and the winning margin should have been greater.

Here are our player ratings for the England squad.

1. Jon Golding – 8
Showed he isn’t shy of making a tackle, even with a big forearm in the face from Xavier Rush, and made a decent contribution in the loose. Held his own in the scrum against Julian White, and although the Sky team were suggesting some illegal techniques, he got away with it.

2. Steve Thompson – 7
A reasonable game from Thompson, although was probably looking for more ball in the loose in a game like this. Throwing-in seemed pretty good, which has been a concern in the past.

3. Paul Doran-Jones – 6
He also managed reasonably well in the scrum, but somehow looks less convincing as a tight-head prop. I know this isn’t directly related to his performance at the weekend, but he looks a bit small and isn’t going to terrify an opposition front row. There are a few ahead of him in the pecking order I’d say.

4. Dave Attwood – 8
A great display from the young Gloucester lock. Authoritative in the lineout with a number of good takes, and dynamic in the loose, often in support and displaying good hands with several offloads.

5. Tom Palmer – 5
Despite a comment on the site to the contrary, I thought Palmer had a poor game. He conceded three penalties in the first half which would be punished in a Test match, and his skill levels in open play seem slightly under par compared to many second rows in world rugby, including the rookie alongside him.

6. James Haskell – 8
Haskell was busy and work-hungry throughout, showing his power and pace to waltz through the weak defence for a try. We seem to have a number of options at 6 at the moment.

7. Steffon Armitage – 7
Had a reasonable game, and was able to demonstrate his pace and ability to stay on his feet with some good surges forward. It’s a tricky game to judge an openside with both sides looking to avoid the breakdown, but Armitage could be a good bench option if the captain gets injured.

8. Nick Easter – 7
Fairly effective, and as you’d expect from Easter these days. Combined well with club-mate Danny Care and made some yards charging at the Baabaas’ defence, and the offloading game that England were attempting suits his abilities with strength in the tackle and good hands.

9. Danny Care – 7
Care wasn’t the best English scrum-half on display at Twickenham this weekend, but had a decent enough game, distributing the ball quickly in the first half and using runners effectively to keep defenders guessing. Thankfully, there wasn’t much evidence of the previously favoured ‘pop to a static forward for a mini-ruck’ strategy.

10. Charlie Hodgson – 5
It looked like he had the yips right from the start, and this wasn’t even a full international fixture. He made one lovely pass to put Mark Cueto in space, but got bounced off a tackle by Ben Kay and was generally pretty average.

11. David Strettle – 7
Worked hard to get himself into the game, and showed off his quick feet a few times – particularly when stopping dead and changing direction to evade a defender in his own 22. He’s still a livewire, but still a bit lightweight.

12. Shontayne Hape – 8
I was pleasantly surprised by Hape, and despite the usual caveats about this type of game, I thought he showed that he could be an asset in England’s midfield. A great step and hand-off for a simple try, as well as a number of solid tackles in defence – he got me thinking about a potential new-look midfield (more on that later).

13. Mike Tindall – 7
Not a bad game from Tindall, and looked in great shape. Again, it’s difficult to gauge his performance in a match like this, but did enough to suggest that he deserves to be in or around the squad.

14. Mark Cueto – 9
One of his best games for England, constantly finding space with the ability to speed through the gap. He was easily the player of the first half, and with this sort of attacking prowess to go with his defensive capabilities, he ought to be a fixture on England’s wing.

15. Ben Foden – 6
This should have been his type of game, but he was outshone by Cueto, and looked like he was trying to force things too much when they weren’t really on. That said, it was only his second start for England, and he looked confident at the back, and it will be interesting to see how he gets on down under.

Olly Barkley was impressive when he replaced Hodgson towards the end of the first half, kicking well and passing as effectively as Hodgson. Dan Ward-Smith looked like a viable option in the second row and would add a bit dynamism, Mathew Tait was pretty average I thought, whilst everyone else did a reasonable job.

8 thoughts on “England Player Ratings versus the Barbarians

  1. Pretty fair assessments, though I do feel Palmer did slightly better than a 5 (slightly better). Backrow will be an interesting battle for the tests. Would still like to see Haskell trailed more as a no. 8, as we have too many good options for 6. Feel sorry for Armitage, as no matter how good a game he has (and i don’t actually recall him having a bad game), he always seems to be overlooked. Maybe try playing Moody at 6, with Armitage at 7, Haskell at 8, and someone like Croft on the bench?

    Really looking forward to the tour now – as long as we play all the tests like the first 40mins against the Ba Ba’s

  2. Agree that Haskell at 8 would be worth a go, but I don’t think I’d look to shoehorn Armitage into the side. He is a good player and useful to have in the squad, but he’s in the top 3 back row forwards.

    A Croft, Moody, Haskell partnership could be a good option to test on this tour (although Haskell, Moody, Easter looks more likely), and I’d like to see Dowson in there at some stage before the RWC.

    If England can get the offloading game going against proper opposition, Easter would be a real asset – he has the hands and stature to draw two defenders and release the ball. If England stick to the dull, static gameplan, I’d want Croft and Haskell at 6 and 8 to add a bit of dynamism.

  3. Personally I’d prefer to see Dowson at 8, but considering the fact he hasn’t been selected for the tour, I seriously doubt he’ll feature in Johnno’s plans for the RWC, and so Haskell would probably be my preferred choice to start at 8. Agree that Easter has a good offloading game, and that he’ll continue to be the 1st choice at 8. My only concern for both of them is that neither player seems capable of playing a decent full 80 mins. Maybe a half each? Or try Croft at 8?

    For the first time in ages, I actually feel that every position has strong competition, which should hopefully help raise our game, as long as Johnno picks on performance and not the “tried and tested”. The only weak area I see for competition is in the front row. That said, I thought Golding was great, and even getting an elbow in the face by Rush didn’t seem to phase him. Would love to see Cole and Golding as the starting props, but don’t know if they play both tight and loosehead? Thomo had his best game in ages too, which is encouraging as Johnno obviously wants to include him in his plans for the RWC. Attwood was another player who had a fantastic game, and I’d love to see him partnered with either Shaw or Lawes (or even Ward-Smith). Youngs and Flood should get the nod to start, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Care starts at 9, with Youngs on the bench. Centre partnership will be very interesting. Hape and Tindall were actually quite a good partnership, though I’d rather see Barkley/Hape or Barkley/Waldouck start. Cueto will definitely secure the 14 shirt, and rightly so, but who will get the start at 11? Ashton should, going on current performance, but I have a funny feeling, either Monye or Strettle will. Unfortunately Foden was poor this game, but I’m hoping it was a one off. Would of liked to see Alex Goode tour, as he is defintiely another up and coming star, and would have provided great competition for the 15 shirt

  4. “Olly Barkley was impressive when he replaced Hodgson towards the end of the first half, kicking well and passing as effectively as Hodgson.”

    Rubbish. Agree that Hodgson looked shakey in first few minutes but thought he played well after that. Excellent passing, good running and made several tackles. Although as always you focus on the one tackle he missed when Kay bounced him off.

    Barkley played in a second half full of extremely poor play by england, and whilst I do not lay the blame at his feet (although he shares it equally with others) how can you say he looked impressive?

  5. I love watching him for Sale, but I just don’t think Hodgson is up to the job at international level. The Baabaas were shocking in the first half, and it should have been easy for a 10 to look like he’s causing the defence a lot of problems – a passable performance in a game like that doesn’t really cut it for me.

  6. The difference between Hodgson and Barkley is that Hodgson is an out and out fly half, where Barkley is a centre who was forced to play fly half. Granted, Barkley use to play 10, but he has been playing as a 12 permanently for a few years now, hence why he has refound his form. Hodgson did an ok job after his nervous start, however, I do personally think Barkley did an equally “ok” job, which shouldn’t have been the case – an out and out half fly should not be equalled in performance by a centre playing out of position.

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