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.