June Internationals 2018: England Player Ratings 1st Test

Chris Robshaw

Well after a stunning 20 minutes, the England players clearly thought they had done the job over South Africa. But soon the Springboks had rallied and capitalised on England’s multiple errors to win an entertaining match 42-39, a winning margin which I had correctly predicted in my Preview post by I hadn’t expected the high-scoring affair. The majority of players played poorly in my opinion and need to be benched or replaced next game, so here are the ratings:

1 Mako Vunipola 5/10
Didn’t quite hit the heights of the Premiership final and struggled with altitude before getting yellow carded for a late shoulder hit on de Klerk which I’m not deducting that many marks before simply because most people would have done the exact same in his shoes.

2 Jamie George 4.5/10
Very surprised if he gets another meaningful chance after this tour, poor defence and again was very poor in the tight which for me is far more important than if he makes a big break every once in a while, and although the Saracen was reasonable at the set piece, it wasn’t significant enough to redeem him.

3 Kyle Sinckler 3/10
Sinckler looks very unfit, I don’t care about the altitude, Sinckler shouldn’t been on tour in the 1st place and it clearly showed with zero impact in the loose. I expect Sinckler to be on the bench next game where he makes more impact coming off the bench and there are fewer scrums.

4 Maro Itoje – 6/10
Poor tackle missed on Faf de Klerk which started a Springbok comeback but at least scored a powerful try over the top of the breakdown. Tried too hard to make an impact on the game and was easily outshone by the magnificent debutant RG Snyman.

5 Nick Isiekwe – 5/10
Interestingly subbed off before halftime for Brad Shields and unfairly in my opinion for he was making hard yards for England up to that point. Therefore I can’t rate him that high unfortunately and if Launchbury is fit then Isiekwe will be confined to the bench next Saturday in Bloemfontein.

6 Chris Robshaw – 5/10
Gave away penalties at the breakdown, nowhere near good enough in terms of ruck clear-outs and when he made any decent dents he was turned over or penalised for holding on. Personally, I hope that Shields starts over the Quins man next week but I doubt Jones has the balls to make that call.

7 Tom Curry – 7/10
While he didn’t exactly trouble the breakdown, Curry’s defence was impressive compared to the rest of his team and did run a wonderful line to make a deep break. I expect the Sale flanker to regain his shirt for next week’s test.

8 Billy Vunipola – 6/10
England couldn’t involve the man enough to inspire them to a victory. Hats off to him for lasting the game but we are yet to see Vunipola at his world-beating best. Let’s hope he lasts this tour without an injury because he is just so essential to England and Saracens at the moment.

9 Ben Youngs – 6/10
Injected rhythm and pace into his side’s attack in the opening quarter, but struggled when South Africa slowed the breakdown and was easily outclassed by Faf de Klerk, also struggled to make decent box kicks to relieve pressure.

10 George Ford – 6/10
At first, Ford was absolutely marvellous with one of his passes creating an early England try but can only do so much when the pack is on the back foot and was bounced off a couple of times by the South Africans.

11 Mike Brown – 7/10
Shouldn’t have played on the wing but at least put in a very good shift nonetheless, his finish for England’s 1st try was the best I’ve seen from Brown in a very long time, he actually made decent metres and he also won a turnover late in the game, one of England’s best players but I hope that he’s back in his best position next weekend.

12 Owen Farrell – 6/10
In terms of playing and kicking, Farrell did reasonably well but for his lack of galvanising a team he’s supposed to be captaining. Obviously he was at the end of a lovely constructed try but was quiet on the field

13 Henry Slade – 4/10
BT wax lyrical about the man but I just think that Slade doesn’t have what it takes to be an international quality player. Playing in a team who rarely loses it makes the Exeter centre looks better than he actually is. Very poor handling from a guy who we are used to seeing throwing audacious offloads and he missed more tackles than Ford.

14 Jonny May – 6/10
Scored a great last-minute try leaving everyone dead in his tracks and set up Elliot Daly for his try wonderfully with a great running line onto George Ford’s pop pass but also ran around like a headless chicken at one point and couldn’t get enough decent ball and space to threaten with later on apart from in the 77th minute.

15 Elliot Daly – 7/10
Oh my word, that penalty kick from 61 metres was out of this world. However, he did kick out on the full on one occasion and failed to gather a bouncing ball to let in Nkosi but apart from that Daly was solid at fullback and one of England’s better players as he scored a gorgeous try early on.

Bench
Jones should have emptied the bench sooner. Luke Cowan-Dickie made a huge impact and I hope he starts next week as he’s so much better than George when fit, especially in terms of ballcarrying, while his Chiefs teammate Harry Williams made a good impact too. Brad Shields came on quite early and failed to make a considerable impact but did provide a good pass for May to score, whilst Nathan Hughes beefed up the back row. Ben Spencer came on for his debut but it was too late for him to make a considerable impact, the same goes for Piers Francis and Denny Solomona. Joe Marler came on and proved that Ellis Genge should have been there instead.

Do you agree?

By Jacob Bassford

42 thoughts on “June Internationals 2018: England Player Ratings 1st Test

  1. By and large agree with your summary but would comment as follows:

    Lenient on Itoje – he got drawn into a side game (of his making) with de Klerk which de Klerk won hands down. I thought it visibly distracted him from the job in hand and cost England by way of a try and needless penalties. The future England and Lions captain (so anointed) should be doing better in his 3rd season at the top.

    Robshaw must now be called out as not good enough, work rate does not compensate for lack of impact – at no point has he ever been world class (on the basis that he is top 3 in his position), he is and never has been Richard Hill mark 2 and we should now look to others. Sadly with the selections on tour the options aren’t huge but perhaps Curry to 6, Simmonds 7 and Vunipola 8?

    Slade – simply don’t know where I stand with this guy. I so want him to be the answer and I think you are right in your assessment that too many people get over excited about him. He is tougher than he looks and undoubtedly talented – with him I sense a player who may take time to flourish – like Mike Catt… I’d like to see him given more time out of hope than anything else.

    I also think you have let Daly off lightly – a massive howler to allow a try and also those two clearance kicks, one out on the full and the other over the dead ball line – sometimes you just need to recompose instead of go for the hail mary. Were it a more polarizing character (like Cipriani) would you have been so lenient?

    1. Wholeheartedly agree!
      Robshaw not good enough. The problem is personnel not coaching staff! Change some of the personnel/players (about 25% of the team by my estimation) for phase 3 of EJ’s revolution.)
      Robshaw makes little yardage nowadays (not overly large, slower than he was and too long in the tooth). Needs to go and haven’t heard many ithers on here say so!

      1. Is the choice of personnel not linked to the coaching staff though? It seems the same issues are cropping up game after game; Robshaw too slow/ineffective is a comment we have all read on this blog nearing maybe a dozen times now. As armchair pundits maybe we aren’t seeing the value Robshaw is adding elsewhere but he hasnt had the speed or breakdown impact for a long time now, and that could be rectified quickly by the coaches subbing him.

        1. Jake
          Take all your points!
          He has played more matchday minutes than any other player. For sure so a bit of rotation and subbing would do no harm!
          Ultimately all are EJs decisions and as you rightly say he is management.
          I think EJ needs to at least look at a new pairing at flanker though and if that entails resting Robshaw – Go for it!

  2. Brutal analysis of the tight-5 but justified, this is one of the areas the game was lost for England. Little go-forward generated by these players, and not enough done around the ruck, putting too much of the burden on the loose forwards. What has happened to the set-piece dependability? The decision to not even have Genge on the bench is mind-boggling.
    Also still can’t understand the inclusion of Marler and Sinkler, neither have played particularly well this season. Hepburn on the other hand had a good season, so I cant see why he wasn’t included in the touring squad.
    Think Daly’s failure to gather the ball deserves a further point deduction, this wouldn’t have happened with Brown at the back. Will we see Daly shifted to centre?
    This seems possible considering Slade once again failed to impress having been given another chance in his favoured position. The occasional offload and long kick to touch shouldn’t be enough to compensate for weak defense and a lack of impact. JJ is sorely missed.

  3. How is Jj sorely missed!? He was anonymous to woeful in the 6 nations and has gone missing in attack apart from the Scotland game last year for 18months!! Jones hiked him early against Ireland when he was dreadful!
    If Slade isn’t going to work out…and I firmly believe that he should be given more time, then play our best back Daly in his club position! In another note, how fair is it to Daly to have him playing in an unfamiliar position?
    Don’t think Eddie will have the guts to drop robshaw.
    The hooking of Isiekwe and then sending shields on to make his debut at lock was an absurd call and shows how Eddie has lost his touch .

    1. I don’t think you can claim any of England’s players have been excelling individually in attack. With the exception of perhaps Jonny May. England have struggled scoring full-stop. JJ is missed defensively, strong tackling and quick horizontal movement. Not sure how many more chances Slade needs.
      All that being said, I would really like to see Daly at 13. His favoured position, and will be less pressure on him that at 15. Though given England’s lack of options in the back three, I think this is unlikely to happen.

      1. Slade has only got 12 caps I think, mostly from the bench
        Not sure that really counts as lots of chances to cement his place

        1. The caps also don’t run in sequence as far as I can see – how can Slade get a bit of consistency in the shirt when he provides cameos from the bench every once in a long while? I know he has to earn the place in the team, but pogoing in and out is not going to see him develop any consistency in an England shirt, or set down a proper marker.
          I think he does suffer from being a little mercurial, but will lose that as he gets older. I don’t agree at all with the 4/10 however, as that can only be a grade made by someone wearing the opposite of rose-tinted glasses. He may not have shone but he was not vying for the ‘worst man on the team’ award either!

  4. Some very disputable calls this week Jacob. If de Klerk was worth a 9, Youngs was no more than half as good, which gives him 4.5. I don´t see how you can fairly give George a 4.5 on the basis of his tight play. When your tight head is getting mangled like Sinkler was you can´t do much more than survive without getting broken as a hooker. His throwing was accurate and he put in some decent tackles. He was a bit unfortunate to get pinged at the breakdown a couple of times by a ref who clearly did not want anyone clearing out at the ruck. No idea why Curry merits a 7. Apart from one charge up the middle he was completely anonymous. How often, as an open side did he actually stop de Klerk or the back row that he was feeding before they crossed the gain line? Too young, too light, too inexperienced. No more than a 5. Itoje did some good things but needs a brain transplant. He gave away several really stupid penalties, was lucky the ref didn´t spot his late hit on de Klerk, and generally needs to grow up. No more than a 5. Agree about Slade, but Daly clearly demonstrated that Brown is a better full back and was worth no more than 4. Farrell has to be marked down because as captain he had absolutely no influence on a team that showed poor discipline throughout. Launchbury, Williams, Shields (at 6) and Simmonds should start next week, with Cips at 10 and Spencer at scrum half. I think we will still lose though.

      1. Not sure why you find this “idiotic” Jacob. If not a transplant, he certainly needs to start engaging the one that he has. He is undoubtedly an extremely talented player and when he first came on the scene many people thought that we had at last discovered a second row with the potential to be truly world class. At present he is a long way from that for a number of reasons.
        1) He gives away far too many soft penalties for both club and country.
        2) He does not seem to read referees well at all. Thinking players tend to suss out what refs will let them get away with after one penalty. Itoje often gets pinged for the same offence several times in a game.
        3) He spends too much time trying to wind people up. This backfired spectacularly with de Klerk on Saturday.
        4) He is inclined towards the deliberate cheap shot. His unpunished late takle on de Klerk which was designed purely to shake him up long after the ball had gone was a good example.
        5) He has far too much to say for himself on the field. He´s not the captain, he should just shut up and get on with it.
        I love his enthusiasm, great engine and skills, but at the moment he is not thinking enough about avoiding trouble, and is too often a liability rather than an inspiration.

  5. Can’t understand calls for George to be dropped. He’s had 3 starts for England after consistently being the best hooker for years. Also, with LCD, you can’t start someone that can’t hit his darts.

    Robshaw and Sinkler need dropping for me. Both anonymous. Let Sinkler impact from the bench and I’d give Robshaw the rest of the summer off.

    We miss JJ. Not in attack necessarily, but his lateral movement in defense is incredible and it was noticeable how poorly England shifted without him.

    Also think you’ve been generous to Brown. He was continuously caught out on his wing, partly because he is too slow to play there and several times I just thought he was too tight. I’d start Earle, but then I would have done so before the 1st test anyway.

    1. Think your last paragraph is somewhat countered by your third one.

      If the centres were slow to shift laterally, it’s little wonder that Brown was caught out on the wing a number of times.

      Certainly from the highlights I;ve seen, the fault seemed to lay more with the defence in the centre forcing Brown to come inwards.

      He is certainly not a wing though.

      I do wish we could see Daly at 13. A back line of Farrell, Slade, Daly (or Cipriani, Farrell, Daly) with May and Earle on the wings and Brown at fullback would make me happy (on this tour at least – thank god there are some other options at home…)

      1. Totally agree with your analysis of the defensive problems Pablito. Brown had to come in because the midfield cover was simply not doing its job. I would also like to see Cips, Farrell, Daly with Brown at full back. Not sure about Earle, I haven´t really seen enough of him to judge. I also agree that there are options at home, but it seems to me that we are rapidly running out of time to forge them into a cohesive unit before the WC.

        1. That’s partly why I’d like to see Earle – let’s see if he can cut it.

          As for options at home, as far as wingers go, I think Nowell and Watson will fit back in pretty seamlessly. Question is how you perm a back three from Nowell, Watson, May and Brown

          Defence wise, England have been narrow for some time now and it’s not the first time we’ve been caught out by sharp passing. At least previously we had a rush defence that tried to cut the ball off before it reached the wide spaces, now they seem caught halfway between drift and rush and not committed to either. (Quins should be slightly concerned about Gustard given their problems with defence all season!)

          I often wonder how much Ford weakens the defence, especially close to the line. He’s a brave defender but his style of tackling the big men involves clinging on either until they fall over or until someone else hits them. Obviously this can’t work when the oppo only need to make another couple of metres. So presumably he is covered by the flankers and the 12, which of course leaves space elsewhere.

  6. One thing which is very dispiriting is that for a while people have been saying we are a long way behind Ireland and Wales in blooding new players and that this tour we had to bring in new faces for the world cup and simultaneously rest tired players. Now it’s all about getting wins and this primary and necessary objective is getting sidelined.
    We were all thrilled to see 2 new scrum halves finally included but it looks like Eddie isn’t going to give them meaningful game time ..If that ends up being the case we are storing up yet more trouble for the future.

  7. I didn’t catch the match annoyingly but have read widely about it and spoken to a number of people who did.
    I find the divergence in opinion interesting:
    eg.
    – The Times had George as their best forward
    – Itoje was widely considered to have given away numerous silly penalties and made to look foolish by de Klerk – esp for the first try that sparked the Bok comeback
    – BV did not look at all fit
    – Tom Curry was badly out-muscled
    – Youngs was pedestrian and not fit enough
    – Daly’s positioning was extremely poor throughout and the bouncing ball he missed was an absolute howler
    – LCD did well but lost an important line out near the end due to poor throwing (wouldn’t be the first time)

    What do other people think?

    I agree on Slade, can’t quite make my mind up. He has all the skills but has yet to demonstrate them on an international stage. He seems like a confidence player to me – and I’m not sure EJ is the right coach to bring out his best.
    BTW according to ESPN scrum, he, Farrell and Ford all missed 2 tackles each

    1. I agree with a lot of that, however I actually thought Curry was our best forward. Certainly was making the most impact at the breakdown, and had a really high work rate. A few really strong clear outs in the first 20 had me briefly thinking he’d single handedly solved our 6 nations woes…

      Daly I also thought had a few issues, but in attack he demonstrated several times that has running, passing and game intelligence is invaluable there so I’d give him another go. Certainly the early May break came from a lovely pass, as did the May try, both of which I can just see Brown throwing miles behind May or over his head… Or of course not passing at all!

  8. The authors bias clearly shines through here. Previous articles make clear his dislike of George and worship of Daley so is no surprise he is so savage to George in spite of a reasonable game (in comparison to other forwards) and so leniant to Daley in spite of some absolute critical howlers by him

    When Eddie Jones talked about a few individual errors is t was very obvious he was talking about Daley and Itoje and rightly so. Neither player should get more than a 5.

    Also, look at the two penalties George gave away in the ruck. The first, he was rolling away clearly on the other side of the ruck to where the ball was but De Klerk cynically/cleverly put himself there so that he could milk the penalty when George did roll away. The second penalty he made the tackle and a springbok immideately dropped on top of him to prevent him from rolling away. Both penalties were very cynical/clever by the boks depending on your viewpoint but very difficult to blame him for either.

    1. The ball he missed was indeed a howler but I thought the mark reflected how awesome his 61m penalty kick was. I might be bias but I do think some people view George with rose-tinted spectacles sometimes

  9. Think that you are being generous to BV. After 60 minutes, I was checking to see if he had actually started the game. He was anonymous. Not surprising really – should have been given the summer off to rehab.

    Also just can’t understand why players who looked lively in the premiership final suddenly look out on their feet when playing for England. What does EJ do to them?

    Altitude or not altitude?

    Have to say that I have lost all confidence in the bloke. I had more confidence in SL at this stage of the RWC cycle and look where that got us!

  10. Did I watch another match. From all the criticism you would have thought we had lost by 50 points instead of 3. But for 2 soft tries we would have won by at least 10 points and then I suppose all the comments would have been very different. Too many armchair critics. The comment by Jake ‘ England have struggled scoring full-stop’ is bazaar. In the six nations England had the second highest try count with 14 and in the last 2 games have scored 10 tries

    1. I’d keep in mind SA had won 2 of their last 9, were missing some key players and have a brand new management team and came back to overturn a 21 point deficit – the biggest comeback in tier 1 rugby since 1999.
      It’s a much worse result than a 3 point loss.

      1. I suspect that you have played Rugby so you should know that any team can beat any other team on any given day. Remember Japan beat South Africa in the World Cup. Its all about the will to win. I suspect England took their feet of the pedal after being so far ahead in the first 20mins and then a few lucky tries gifted South Africa back the initiative. Lets just see what happens over the next 2 weeks before we start thinking of committing Hara Kiri and throwing the baby out with the bath water. I think that Elliot Daly over kicking was due to his inexperience with altitude Note the way his 60m penalty kick went over the bar and he did a 63m kick in the first minute of the game.

  11. Given the average players ratings from contributors the overall conclusion is something between we didn’t play very well to we played badly.Yet according to the coaches the players are desperate to win the series -didn’t see any desperate desire last Saturday did you?We have a badly selected poorly led and undermotivated group of very highly paid rugby players underperforming is my view

  12. Curry our best forward and May our best back.
    Decent efforts from Billy and Slade.
    Thats it. The rest were below par in one respect or another.

  13. During the game, I felt like we losing it up front – not just daft penalties, but missed tackles and an inability to win the ball back, but on a re-watch, I think Slade’s poor defence in the centre actually most often led to Eng ground and conceding tries.

    Daly to 13? (Brown to 15, Slade on the bench instead of Francis and Solomona on the wing?) Williams in over Sinckler and Genge on the bench.

    I agree that Robshaw had a poor game but I think BV was also flat… start Shields in the backrow perhaps?

  14. I stick by my earlier post that this is symptomatic of deeper,more serious issues. For example, can anybody honestly say that they could name England’s genuinely best starting xv and reps?
    That is a huge concern two years into Jones’ tenure and sits in marked contrast to the SCW world cup winning team which ,barring the odd injury or experiment all of us could recite in our sleep. Jones’ appears clueless. Yes, the amount of injuries to key players has been ridiculously high but two years in and we are still fannying about trying to find the best centre pairing, our captain and first choice hooker has little impact on the game, the one tried and tested full back is being asked to do winger impersonations, who is the genuine up and coming tight head? (it is emphatically NOT Sinckler), the back row is a revolving door, dependant on whoever is fit at the time, Launchers apart, we lack locks with genuine grunt and bite, Farrell is slowly growing into the captains role but time is not on his side re the world cup, etc ,etc. Times up EJ. Time seems to up for EJ too in my eyes. The winning run was amazing but it masked a lot of shortcomings and issues the have not been addressed. We need something and someone with a clear vision and the lack of ego to make it work.

    1. Maybe now then is the time to look at the real problem areas and fix those, instead of trying to change the entire team sheet.
      I’m not sure a year and a bit is enough time to bed in a new FB, so maybe Brown takes the 15 jersey for now and we look to players in other positions who can cover 15 at a pinch.
      We have somehow gone from having 2 near world-class lock pairings (Krutoje & Lawsberry) to having Shietoje. Yes Kruis’ form has dipped but there are plenty of eligible quality locks playing in the Prem to choose from, and we certainly shouldn’t be in a position where we are choosing between Isiekwe (who’s confidence cant be great) and Hill to partner Itoje in an upcoming test match.
      Time has flown; I can remember vividly when Jones chose Ford and Farrell and though the intention may have been for this to be temporary, two years down the line (and 1 year from the WC) we are still playing this combo. This pairing can work; Foley and Beale showed having 2 playmakers can be devastating, but this was balanced with having strong, direct ball carriers in Kerevi keeping defenses honest. England don’t seem to have this balance if Slade is playing 13, could Daly provide something different?
      Ultimately it comes down to how we play in the WC. If we enter the tournament disjointed, playing poorly, with the same question marks surrounding the squad that Lancaster had, then I will be beyond disappointed. We have a good group of players who should be competing with the worlds best and it would be an awful waste of 4 years if the next WC is another damp squib.

      1. Agree with you Jake,especially about not wanting a repeat of the last WC debacle. Do you thibnk we should give EJ the benefit of the doubt or do we go for broke and get a new leader?

      1. Sorry if i offend you but i don’t get why you are singling me out. I’m only expressing my opinions just like you fella. It’s an open forum.If you don’t agree with me ,fine but snide comments? grow a pair.

    2. Of the home nations, to be fair, the only one that could arguably name its ‘first XV’ at the present moment is Ireland. I’m a Wales supporter; but it is a bit alarming. I felt that after 2015, England were leading a true rally in the northern hemisphere, raising the bar, with lots of brilliant players coming through. It has suddenly gone pear-shaped, and we’re left asking is this a slip-up or an avalanche? Whatever it is, EJ needs to get a grip quick; it doesn’t help with Rob Andrew sounding off so ‘loyally’ today; unbelievable!

  15. Tuilagi was probably the 1st choice outside centre, trouble is he has been constantly injured (thank you Saracens, Bath and Wasps) but was building up steam ahead of the tour series. If he stays fit until November I expect to see the centre return to the international fold.

  16. Largely agree with these scores and can’t help feeling that Eddie has fallen into the same trap as Lancaster, in that he is more worried about losing than winning. Unfortunately this means he will keep picking players who we should be looking to replace, no matter how good they’ve been in the past.

    I would stick with Mako and George but start Williams instead of Sinckler. Isiekwe did nothing wrong and was making more yards than the majority of the pack. To swap him for Shields was baffling to be honest!?
    Swap Slade for Daly and if you have to play Brown (I wouldn’t) play him in his best position.

    1. Mako, 2. George, 3. Williams, 4. Itoje, 5. Isiekwe (Launchbury if fit), 6. Wilson, 7. Curry, 8. Vunipola, 9. Youngs, 10. Ford, 11. May, 12. Farrell, 13. Daly, 14. Solomona (not who I would choose but with such a lack of wingers he gets the nod). 15. Earle.
    16. LCD, 17. Genge, 18. Sinckler, 19. Hill, 20, Simmonds, 21. Spencer, 22. Lozowski, 23. Brown

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