Six Nations 2017: England Player Ratings Versus Ireland

England lineout

Well England’s run had to end sometime but I didn’t expect such an anti-climax of a game. 18 wins out of the last 19 and a second consecutive Six Nations is still a great accomplishment, but England were distinctly ordinary in this potentially record-breaking game. In particular, they came second best to a physical and snarling Irish back row – Peter O’Mahony only came into the side in the pre-match warm up due to Jamie Heaslip’s injury, but he pulled a man-of-the-match performance out of his kit bag.

Here’s how the England players rated.

1 Joe Marler – 5 / Mako Vunipola – 6
Marler produced a steady performance and worked well to disrupt the Irish maul. Made a few metres with the ball but sacrificed at half time for Mako Vunipola’s extra physicality, although it didn’t have enough of an effect to change the outcome.

2 Dylan Hartley – 4.5
A few lineout wobbles. One carry for zero metres is not enough for such a supposedly aggressive player; Hartley was outplayed by Rory Best and replaced on 55 minutes. As a captain his record is exemplary, but as a player and given how early he is being subbed, surely it is time for a change?

3 Dan Cole – 5
Cole again conceded a daft penalty at the breakdown, but he did carry the ball more than usual. Just edged the scrum contest.

4 Joe Launchbury – 7.5
Pick of the forwards. Another impressive match for Launchbury, who never seems to take a backwards step and it felt like he was trying to drag England back into the game single-handedly at one point. Tackled ferociously and won a turnover to boot.

5 Courtney Lawes – 6
A poor game for Lawes by his previous standards. Dropped the ball a couple of times, gave away a penalty, and failed to make much ground with his carrying. Still got through a big defensive effort though and made 20 successful tackles.

6 Maro Itoje – 6
A very mixed game for England’s young star. Itoje gave away three penalties, including one for a late hit and had to be told to calm down by the referee. However, he also made some huge (legal) hits as well and finished joint top with 20 tackles, including winning two turnovers.

7 James Haskell – 6
Suffered at the hands of the Irish choke tackle and didn’t make much of an impact on proceedings. Still seems a way off his best and was subbed on 60 minutes for Tom Wood.

8 Billy Vunipola – 5
Billy didn’t have his usual impact with his carrying and was well shackled by the dominant Irish back row trio. Gave away the penalty that led to Ireland’s first try. Although England have been gagging to have him back in the team, he was tellingly replaced with nearly 20 to go.

9 Ben Youngs – 5
Sniped well early on but increasingly struggled under the suffocating Irish defence. Had a kick charged down and was responsible for some poor passing as well. Replaced by Care as usual.

10 George Ford – 6
Kicked one ball out on the full and was targeted by the big Irish ball carriers almost as much as Sexton was by the English tacklers. He had to make 12 tackles and while he succeeded with them all, he often concedes yards. Regardless, 12 tackles is too many for a flyhalf to have to make and reinforces England’s back row issues. Ford also struggled to create space for his backline like he did last week, although he still threw a few excellent delayed passes. Replaced by Te’o on 63 mins as England opted to try a more direct approach.

11 Elliot Daly – 8
One of the few England players to enhance his reputation. Daly chased kicks all day, was safe under the high ball and made some brilliant long clearances. One bit of skill to stop a ball going into touch was particularly impressive. Also England’s biggest attacking threat in the backline. If his long-term position for England is to be at 15 this was a good audition.

12 Owen Farrell – 6
Also fell victim to the Irish choke tackle a couple of times. Played a lovely chip through for Daly which almost put him away and kicked at goal flawlessly. Like Ford, he failed to create any attacking momentum for his team.

13 Jonathan Joseph – 5
Unable to replicate the brilliance of last week. Ford and Farrell struggled to create opportunities and Joseph was not given an inch of space by the Irish defence. Seems to fade from game to game, and despite supposedly being England’s primary attacking threat it is interesting he was replaced by Nowell with all still to play for. His defence was tight as usual.

14 Anthony Watson – 5
Although he was not the only one, Watson was conspicuous for some poor handling: he dropped a simple pass and knocked on a couple of times. Other than that he barely touched the ball. Watson was brought in to cope with Ireland’s planned aerial bombardment but didn’t have two much to do – instead he was targeted in defence by their backs, with some success.

15 Mike Brown – 7
Just copy and paste my comments from last week’s ratings for Brown. Brave and aggressive as ever, and returned the Irish kicks with a couple of excellent runs. He finished on 62 metres from 10 carries – more carries and more than double the metres of any other England player. Made the game-ending knock on as England tried to run from deep with the clock red.

Replacements 6
For the first time England’s replacements were unable to win the match for the team. In another first, I also disagreed with Jones decision to make some of the substitutions. Sometimes the introduction of a player can spark a change in fortunes, but such substantial changes seemed to disrupt the flow more than anything. Although they were certainly having quiet matches, was bringing off three of your game changers in Ford, Joseph and Billy Vunipola – players who can create something from nothing – the right decision?

How do you think the players rated?

By Henry Ker

21 thoughts on “Six Nations 2017: England Player Ratings Versus Ireland

  1. Looks pretty fair, Lawes had a few errors but his maul defence was very good so I’d mark him slightly higher.

    Daly slightly lower because the brilliant bit of skill meant the ball did not go out on the full!

  2. No mention of the butchered try opportunity by Brown then? Had he offloaded to Watson fairly early on England could’ve had a try.

    Still on a whole fair comment on the England performance.

    1. It would be harsh to mark him down for it, the pass was behind his shoulder and that’s never an easy catch – and usually fault lies as much with the passer as the catcher in that situation.

      1. VJ – That’s a fair point but still worth a try, I totally agree with those now who say that he is doing as he has been coached and yes this tactic can take 2-3 defenders out of the equation but they need to change this tack as there have been a few occasions in this tournament where England could’ve been more dangerous and attacking had Brown offloaded and whats worse he has looked and seen the support.

  3. Marks are too high for Youngs and Watson in my view

    Once again Youngs had a poor game. Indecisive, slow and with scattergun passing. Of course the breakdown battle didn’t help, but not all the ball he received was rubbish – although by time he’d passed it onwards it was. Ford and Farrell are never going to get a back line moving with passes that hi their ankles or have to be jumped for. Care once again added accuracy and snap when he came on. Hopefully the summer will see some other options being trialled

    Watson seemed well off the pace, didn’t go looking for work and was at sixes and sevens defensively on occasion.

    A 6 is also generous for Haskell who was ineffective to say the least. The type of game he used to have all the time

    Although lawes had a good championship, this playing of him and Itoje at lock/flanker does the balance of the backrow no favours. Itoje should be playing at lock and hopefully will be once Robshaw and Kruis return

  4. Agree with most of what Pablito says, particularly about Youngs. It was not just his passing that was poor but his lack of direction for his forwards. Laidlaw doesn’t have a great pass but he knows how to organise a pack. Harsh on Cole who I thought scrummaged well and really put himself about, and 4.5 is too high for Hartley who was completely anonymous both as a player and as a leader. Time for him to go back to the Northampton bench and watch a hooker who leads from the front. Haskell looks as if he is still limping and I wonder whether his toe is still giving him gyp.

  5. Youngs and Hartley dont deserve such high marks Do we not have a scrum half who can pass whats the lad at Wasps like?

    1. You mean Robson, he’s good if not great which makes his continued omission even more baffling. Annoyingly Youngs has probably played his way out of a lions shirt so we won’t even get to see how he does in Argentina

      1. Are there any young scrum-halfs on their way up? I can’t think of any off-hand. So what options are there other than Youngs?

        Care, Robson, Simpson, Ben Spencer? Will Chudley? The lad at Leicester with the silly hair?

        1. Harrison? Sharp and a decent pass but not much of a kicker from what little I have seen. For sheer reliability Wigglesworth is still as good as any.

        2. Harrison? Sharp and a decent pass but not much of a kicker from what little I have seen. For sheer reliability Wigglesworth is still as good as any.

  6. Did Noel play on Saturday!!? His work rate was below his usual standards. England as whole looked like they played a game too far. Hartley did him self zero favours. I really, really, really expected them to find a way to win. The fact that they didn’t is alarming. Our midfield axis is one if the best in the world but they were devoid of inspiration. The AB’s regularly win off the back of 40 % posession. I have come to expect England to pull it out the bag. Worrying for the Lions.
    Gatland said he wanted to see who played well/ responded under pressure. Our key players didn’t.
    Before anyone says that Ireland were immense, they just weren’t, that makes it even worse. There was no pressure on them, no 18 game winning streak to uphold, no receiving the Championship if they still lost ( and the lump in the throat that carries), yet they won
    With hindsight i feel the writing was on the wall as soon as the media started talking about the Irish being party spoilers and England sucked it up and let it become a self fullfilling prophecy. It’s just not good enough.
    Maybe ( and we hope ) Englands downfall is a blessing and reality check for the Lions.

  7. If you mean Nowell, he was on the bench, which may be why you were wondering if he was playing.

  8. Fascinating Brown had the most metres-made again.
    Should put paid to the doubters. The only safe alternative at 15 would be E.Daly or Mike Haley of Sale. Watson is a winger and with the hands he showed on Saturday he shouldn’t seriously be considered for the 15 shirt again. The man is a wing (no doubt why he plays there in the first place!)
    After Saturday’s performance any sane punter would even put Brown odds on for a Lions berth; that is we’re basing this on performance and stats alone (rather than a curious case of i just don’t like the man) – just to be professional about it. He must have the best stats of all the 15’s in the competition!

    Hutch can we have a ‘Full-back stats comparison from all six nations’?
    It might prove interesting and help dispel the myths about the man. Just a thought!

    1. Personally I think the meters made stat is the most pointless thing that gets reeled out. It’s always the fullback. They return kicks from deep several times a game.

      Watson actually came through as a 15, and often plays there for Bath. Of course he can play wing too but a hell of a lot of just junior rugby was in the 15 shirt.

      Brown has his uses. He’s defensively a rock and he is solid under the high ball but I would imagine his try scoring, assists and defenders beaten stats would be poor (as I’ve mentioned meters made is nonsense).

      As for being Lions first choice, that’s truly laughable. I’m English and I can’t see how he could be in the reckoning or even considered alongside Hogg, Kearney or Williams.

      1. The fact that Watson played junior rugby at fullback doesnt make him an international quality fullback though. I’m just not sure he’s good enough in the air or defensively to be considered for England at the moment. He did not play well against Ireland.

        Of course Brown needs to be replaced, as he is not a spring chicken any more. But I don’t know who will be doing the replacing. After this 6 Nations, Daly I’d be more confident about than Watson, despite the fact that he doesn’t play there for Wasps. Mike Haley is a good call but he needs some more exposure.

        As for the Lions, I think AlexD only said Brown should be on the plane, not that he should be first choice.

        Let’s dismiss Hogg from the equation as he will be the lions first choice fullback without doubt – his attacking abilities are good enough to warrant overlooking his defensive frailities.

        Williams the jury is out on as he’s not playing there enough for Wales but his games against the ABs were good and it’s probably his best position, if only Howley would realise it. Of course Gatland may not either

        Of the last 2, I’d take Brown over Kearney everyday, a decent game or two this 6 Nations for Kearney notwithstanding.

        Let’s look at the stats you mention. Because I’m sad I looked them up. This is how Kearney works out against Brown on average per game (obviously Kearney’s figures are slightly skewed as he only played 4, one of which was a blowout against Italy):

        Defenders Beaten – Kearney 3, Brown 3
        Clean Breaks – Kearney 0.5, Brown 0.4 (2 each)
        Tries – Kearney 0, Brown 0
        Try Assist – Kearney 0.25, Brown 0.2 (1 each)
        Offloads – Kearney 0.25, Brown 0.8
        Turnovers Won – Kearney 0, Brown 0.6
        Turnovers Conceded – Kearney 1, Brown 1
        Tackle Success – Kearney 64%, Brown 75%

        In attack, almost the same. In defence Brown. In consistency, Brown.

        When choosing your fullback, surely you look for defensive ability first and foremost. The boost a team gets from knowing that the person at the back is solid as a rock is priceless. Only if someone is an attacking genius (like Hogg) does that outweigh defensive solidity. Of course its nice to have both but its pretty rare.

        Of course Brown should be going on the Lions tour, but not as first choice. He will make the perfect mid-week player. Very good, experienced, hard as nails and able to step up to the test side should he be needed. The Lions will need players like him

        Unfortunately I think Gatland will take Halfpenny – and I’d rate him the worst of the lot

        1. Well said Pablito.
          Of course i wasn’t saying Brown was 1st choice (you’d need a lobotomy to say that).
          Brown is excellent back up (though of course on tour any player can raise his game thus grabbing the no 1 spot…theoretically)
          Agreed about Hogg who goes because of his attacking threat! Kearney not on this showing sorry! Not if we’re going on form and not the subjective selectorial policy of “I quite like the guy….he’s my fave bestest player!”
          Furthermore if you take note of some of Don P’s comments (i repeat ‘some’ as alot have to be taken with a pinch of salt so laughably subjective are they). His point about England was that EJ picked players “out of position” v Ireland and he is right.
          Daly a winger…i think not (certainly not against the ABs in a month of Saturdays.
          Itoje an international flanker….i think not.
          I fear Gatland is in danger of committing the same error (players out of position).
          A last point is that not many kiwis will have played against Brown before and therefore (not knowing his plays and preferences) will get skinned by him just like many opponents were in 2014 in his breakthrough international year.

        2. Pablito
          Agreed. Halfpenny is not my idea of a Lions 15 either.
          For the perfect balance of defensive and offensive skill sets (as rare a find as Father Xmas)
          I’d go with:
          1. Hogg
          2. Brown
          3. Kearney (the latters form was crap in the 6n despite or because of most including myself holding him in higher regard at the start of it)
          There hasn’t been a perfect 15 in world rugby since Christian Cullen, Joubert for SA or Campo for Australia though the latter had some defensive lapses; most famously gifting Euan Evans the Lions series winning try on his own try line back in i can’t even remember when.
          The pefect 15 is indeed like alchemy a mercurial and rare find.
          There must be a moral here: Appreciate Brown whilst we still have him because the grass ain’t always greener!

      2. Jacob
        As Pablito says Watson would not have the same solidity in defence as Brown (his butter-fingers v Ireland being possibly a case in point). He would possibly be a better runner from the back but that is all. I seriously doubt his boot is as good as Brown’s either. So no EVIDENCE that he is a better international 15 in-the-making. More evidence for Daly or Mike Haley at 15.
        Definitely also never said Brown was Lions first choice (re-check my wording). Hogg obviously is though his defense is EXTREMELY suspect for the level that is required by the Lions. Scotland it is not! He will need to raise his game!
        What you gain in offense with Hogg you lose in defense (as someone else rightly said on here). Both players have their merits and both no doubt would if played need to raise their game to compensate for their weaknesses.

  9. on rewatching the match was struck by how poor youngs was. his kicking wasn’t up to scratch and he seemed to dither endlessly. ford always plays sup par when youngs is poor – in fact i find it hard to remember a game when england played well when youngs was off. by the same token, when he’s playing well the whole backline looks good.
    watson is nowhere near the standard of an international full back in terms of catching high balls and last tackle defence. the mind boggles at the thought of how much we could have lost by if he was at full back on saturday. were he and billy really match fit? didn’t look like it. thought it was a big mistake not to play nowell, eddie said the conditions didn’t help them but he knew in advance there was probably going to be rain and nowell was much the better choice.
    why weren’t we competing at the line outs? can’t understand that given our advantages there. am a fan of eddie but he got a number of decisions wrong imo.

  10. On re-watching the first quarter i was amazed by how much possession England kicked backed at the Irish (not ball from their own 22 either but from around the half-way line).
    Inexcusable!
    Ireland did to us what we had done to others all championship i.e keep the ball in-hand and run at the opposition. The Irish beat us at our own game because and i can only surmise..
    1) We gave them too much respect
    2) They kicked to EJs orders (in which case EJ bottled it pre-match)
    England had one great overlap in the second minute with Brown joining the line with Daly outside i think. Despite many pointy fingers on here about Brown it was a bloody horrible pass (behind his right shoulder and high so he had to jump)
    I’d have dropped it and so would most others (perhaps not an AB but then not many of those over here)

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