Tries don’t always win games. England and Wales were matched at three-apiece by the end of their World Cup warm-up at Twickenham on Sunday, yet the Red Roses still cruised to victory. The boot of George Ford proved enough to see off Warren Gatland’s warriors, with Elliot Daly also landing a drop-goal to push the English further out of sight.
Nevertheless, an impressive performance does not entail impressive displays from every player on the pitch. Here’s how each England man got on.
Ellis Genge – 8 (MOTM)
Jones likes his prop to have longevity. Genge evidently fits the bill after his 80-minute all-action shift at the Cabbage Patch, the loosehead looking energetic for the entirety of the match. His ball-carrying skills are well-documented and, unsurprisingly, he had some bustling runs through opposition bodies. However, it was his marvellous scrummaging that will have put the biggest smile on his coach’s face; if there were any doubt about his place in the World Cup squad, they were put to rest by half-time.
Luke Cowan-Dickie – 7
Nothing too flashy, but also nothing to criticise from the Exeter Chiefs fan-favourite. 12 carries and 10 tackles would have been much appreciated by his teammates, whilst his focus during Welsh lineouts earned England possession twice, as well as a deserved try for himself.
Dan Cole – 5
By no means a horror show from Cole, but he simply must improve by the time the squad touch down in Japan. A ghost at times – albeit a reliable force in the scrums – Jones will demand his number 3 gets more involved around the park.
Joe Launchbury – 7
This was classic Launchbury. Piano-shifters are essential in the England game-plan and no one questions the efforts of the big man. Rucks were cleared, opposition runners were stopped in their tracks, and attacks were supported well. He has put forward a solid claim for a starting berth against Tonga in Sapporo.
Charlie Ewels – 6
The jersey will not be his when the matches that matter roll around, Ewels didn’t do quite enough to warrant selection, despite a decent performance. Much like his partner Launchbury, the Bath lock did what was necessary and can have no serious regrets. Competition in this position is at its toughest.
Lewis Ludlum – 8
Ludlam knew he had to stand out to secure his spot in a hugely-competitive position for England. Did he do that? He most certainly did, and some. Gifted a start after originally being handed a place amongst the substitutes, this was Ludlam grabbing the bull by the horns and leaving Jones with no choice but to take him to Japan. He could even get himself in contention for the 6 shirt if similar levels are reached in games versus Wales (again), Ireland, and Italy. Bravo Lewis, bravo indeed.
Tom Curry – 6
If Curry hadn’t hobbled off before the half-hour mark – and kept up his brilliant beginning to the encounter – he would have received a significantly higher rating. It was 28 minutes of hounding the Welsh, offering himself as a runner, and grafting for possession. He will be pivotal if the Red Roses are to reach the latter stages of the tournament.
Billy Vunipola – 8
The official Man of the Match was an unstoppable force for large periods of the clash, but then that is what we have come to expect from this bulldozing behemoth. Of course, that is not all Vunipola offers to Jones; a delightful pair of hands make his carrying that much more threatening, as he manages to draw defenders and release the ball for teammates to utilise the open spaces. His try was simply the cherry on top.
Willi Heinz – 8
Another with his World Cup hopes on the line, Heinz took no chances in booking his tickets to eastern Asia. On debut, he was entertaining without being a liability – exactly what you want from a playmaking scrum-half. It scares opponents and leaves them unsure of what will be coming next. This sums up the quality of his showing; you wouldn’t be particularly concerned if Heinz starts against one of the main contenders for the Webb Ellis trophy.
George Ford – 7
Make no mistake, Owen Farrell will be the orchestrator-in-chief come September. However, understudy Ford is a sterling option to have off the bench, proving his abilities with ball-in-hand as he brought the game to the Six Nations champions, whilst also securing victory from the tee. If there is one area that still needs work, it’s his tactical kicking.
Anthony Watson – 7.5
England’s starting wingers have been confirmed; we will be seeing Watson and Joe Cokanasiga at 11 and 14 for the matches that matter. Phenomenal in the air and always looking to get involved, this was the kind of performance that Jones relishes from his wide-men. He wasn’t really afforded an opportunity to cross the whitewash, yet still looked lethal when taking on George North and co.
Piers Francis – 6
I can’t criticise the New Zealand native for what he did on Saturday, but I was nonetheless surprised to see him make the cut. Ben Te’o is a whole other animal and the ex-League boy will be mightily disappointed to miss out to his counterpart. For sure, Francis won’t let you down. However, can he really change the flow of a match like Te’o?
Jonathan Joseph – 7.5
Some will say he should have been able to hunt down Gareth Davies before the half-back reached the England, and Joseph himself will probably expect better from himself in that regard. Still, he clearly had the Welsh on the back foot when searching for pockets of space and produced some sterling moments of link-up play. The British & Irish Lion was always going to Japan; will he also now be going to the forefront of Jones’ pecking order in the middle of the park?
Joe Cokanasiga – 7.5
On the face of it, Cokanasiga has two key strengths. He’s arguably the finest finisher at England’s disposal when everything is taken into account, and he’s a stupendous option for making metres. The 122kg bruiser ate up 83 of the latter against a team known for its mean defence, whilst also powering home for yet another score at international level. His tackling is also an asset for Jones, though you wouldn’t necessarily think that given his issues in that department over the weekend. Nevertheless, he has likely got the right-wing position on lockdown.
Elliot Daly – 6
A 6 is perhaps harsh for the man who put the result beyond all reasonable doubt with a late drop-goal. A fullback needs to make his tackles, though, and Mike Brown would certainly have taken Davies down. It was inconsequential to the outcome in an inconsequential game; he may not be so fortunate in the near future.
Jack Singleton – n/a
The sub hooker didn’t have any time to impress having only been brought on for the final minute of play. Yet, he somehow managed to frustrate with a poor throw in his only contribution. It didn’t matter, he’s still going to the World Cup.
Joe Marler – n/a
The one-time retired loosehead was an unused replacement.
Harry Williams – 5
No, Williams’ primary role isn’t to scythe down oncoming runners. Jones won’t want to hear such an excuse and will be laying into the Chiefs prop for his poor attempt at tackling when Wales were pressing hard late on. Fortunately, he was a beast during the scrum battle, but has still been deemed surplus to requirements in the RWC squad.
George Kruis – 6
Kruis made it a hat-trick of respectable displays from England’s lock trio at Twickenham. Though he was afforded few minutes on the pitch, The Saracens man’s presence would have been enjoyed by Cowan-Dickie at set-pieces.
Courtney Lawes – 7
Unexpectedly brought on before the break, Lawes did what was expected and battered the Welsh with his physicality and tireless energy. His turnover at the breakdown was also lovely to see, as was the double-tackle with Ludlam.
Ben Youngs – 5
How ludicrous would it be if Youngs lost out to Heinz in the race for the 9 jersey? On the evidence of Saturday, not too crazy. Maybe that is doing a disservice to the former, who was hardly given a chance to shine due to Wales’ post-break dominance.
Joe Marchant – n/a
Marchant wasn’t on the field long enough to assess.
Manu Tuilagi – 7
Tuilagi was also brought on rather late, yet he was able to leave an impression. He did what he does best – truck it up the middle and make an absolute nuisance of himself. How glad Jones will be to have a weapon of nuclear proportions back in his squad after too nay years on the treatment table.
By Ed Alexander