Six Nations 2018: England Player Ratings v Wales

Danny Care


In the freezing cold and swirling rain, England edged a typically brutal encounter with Wales at Twickenham 12-6. Here are how the England players rated.

1 Mako Vunipola
Put in a herculean shift for a front row – Vunipola was England’s third highest tackler with 17 and primary ball carrier. Looked dead on his feet by the time Jones opted to replace him with Alec Hepburn in the 76th minute. 8

2 Dylan Hartley
Shed blood for his country this week. Despite only completing the equivalent of 40 minutes due to his HIA in the first half, Hartley put in a couple of big hits and was often the second man in, slowing the opponents ball down. Threw flawlessly again and held up well in the scrum against a strong front row. 7

3 Dan Cole
A mixed game – solid scrummaging against much tougher opposition than last week, showed some strong rucking and made a nuisance of himself at the breakdown. Gave away a frustrating penalty, and only two carries without crossing the gain line is a bit underwhelming, however. 7

4 Joe Launchbury
Launchbury looked like he had a point to prove in front of Warren Gatland. With four of the 2017 Lions’ locks between the two squads, Launchbury was the pick of the lot and my man of the match. Despite being replaced on 67 minute he was England’s top tackler with 19 and carried 13 times, second only to Vunipola. A proper grunt performance, capped by sublime hands to ride the tackle of two Welshmen and hook the ball around them and set up May’s second try. A moment of pure class. 8.5

5 Maro Itoje
Much better from the Rolls-Royce forward as he went toe-to-toe with his former Lions compatriot Alun Wyn Jones. Carried with menace and always seemed to pop up at key moments when England needed an intervention, forcing a couple of turnovers. Gave away a penalty that resulted in a Welsh kick a goal. 8

6 Courtney Lawes
A quieter game from Lawes than expected – solid, if unspectacular. Went well at the lineout, winning four; however, given the number of quality jumpers they have, I was surprised England didn’t try to pressure Wales more there. 7

7 Chris Robshaw
I found it difficult to score Robshaw this week since he played out of position, first at openside, then deputising at eight for the second half when Simmonds retired hurt. Despite that, he gave it his all: excellent work rate, always a willing carrier and got through a mountain of tackles. 7.5

8 Sam Simmonds
Not the fireworks of last week’s all-star performance. Simmonds did grow as the first half went on, making a couple of powerful carries and tackles, but had to retire hurt at half time. 6

9 Danny Care
With this match, Care became England’s most capped scrum half – he was also given a rare start (only his sixth under Jones) with Youngs out injured. Care controlled the tempo and distributing well – no easy feat given the rain. A couple of kicks were slightly off the right length. 7

10 George Ford
Like last week, linked up impressively with Farrell and distributed fluently. Stood firm in defence despite being targeted by Wales big carriers. Miscued a couple of kicks and had a pass intercepted. Made way for Ben Te’o and his physicality on the 68-minute mark. 7.5

11 Jonny May
May’s second try may be one of the easiest he will score as he gratefully received Launchbury’s offload and flopped over the line, but the first was one arguably only he could have scored, showing searing pace to latch onto Farrell’s through ball. Always threatening and looking for a gap to exploit, but faded a little as the grame went on. 8

12 Owen Farrell
Another great performance. Farrell attacked the line repeatedly – making two clean breaks and beating four defenders – kicked brilliantly from hand, and was directly responsible for setting up both tries: first his inspired raking kick through the Welsh line for May to collect, and then again his wide miss-pass to Launchbury created the space for May’s second. Won a crucial turnover but a very surprising seven missed tackles mars his score, however. 8

13 Jonathan Joseph
A quiet game from Joseph – was tasked with man-marking Rhys Patchell ahead of the game, and generally defended well and shackled the Welsh backline. Only a few glimpses of his dancing feet was a little underwhelming in attack. 6.5

14 Anthony Watson
Alongside Brown, Watson was responsible for England’s early dominance of the aerial contest, including claiming the high ball to start off May’s first try. Chased brilliantly and had a couple of good attacks before being forced off injured early in the first half. Somehow managed to convince the TMO he got to the ball ahead of Gareth Anscombe and deny Wales a try. 7.5

15 Mike Brown
The official man of the match, this was perfect conditions for Brown to do what he does best – ignore his personal safety to contest every high ball and then return it with interest; always beat the first man and was solid defensively. As Jones said, ‘he’s done that for 24 Tests for us … He’s our full-back. He carries the high ball, he plays with courage’. 8.5

Sam Underhill takes the understandable plaudits for his incredible try-saving (and match-saving) tackle on Scott Williams (see below). He also got through an amazing 13 tackles in his half of rugby – pushing for a start next game. Jamie George also impressed and made a similar glut of tackles, despite his one under-throw at the lineout. Elsewhere, Jack Nowell had an eye-catching half and made a few lively bursts through the Welsh line. It was also good to see the elder statesman, Richard Wigglesworth back in international rugby and he controlled the conditions well, although the tempo did drop a bit. 8

How would you rate the players?

By Henry Ker

24 thoughts on “Six Nations 2018: England Player Ratings v Wales

  1. Itoje an 8? I thought he had an indifferent game in what is proving to be an indifferent season.
    Odd to single out Lawes for criticism about lack of contesting the Welsh throw when Itoje didnt get up at all to make a challenge on the opposition throw. Its one area where he has been markedly less effective.
    Some of the other marks are too generous for an overall team performance that wasn’t exactly crash hot.
    Mako, Launchbury and Robshaw the pick of the forwards for me, with Brown and Farrell the better performers in the backs.

    1. Not completely singling Lawes out for the lack of contesting – but with a player ratings article the comment had to sit under someone and as he runs the lineout, thought it was the best place.

      Average rating is 7.5 (excluding replacements), which i thought was a pretty fair score for the team as a whole.

      1. The lineout thing must be a strategic decision not to compete but to stop the maul. If it is, it’s a bloody silly one. Surely you compete or not dependent on the situation. What’s the point in defending against the maul if it’s an oppo throw in on their own 22?? Surely its far better to get in and compete and at least make it messy if you can’t steal it. At one point Itoje was nicking oppo lineout ball for fun, now he doesn’t even get the chance.

        It was one of the factors in our loss to Ireland (esp confounding when Wales had caused them all sorts of issues in the lineout) and it helped keep the Welsh in the game here.
        What makes it even more bizarre is that we had a tactic of pinning them back with kicks to touch!

    2. I’ve been wondering whether the law changes at the breakdown have lessened Itoje’s impact somewhat, certainly in the open field. I’m also convinced that those who were on the Lions tour are now practically dead on their feet – George has had nowhere near the same impact coming off the bench as he had last season either, for example – which is playing a major part (and also yet another reason to sing Mako’s praises to the rooftops after this game, where he was superb).

  2. What are peoples thoughts on Mako playing 76 minutes? You could see he was dead on his feet around the 65th minute. In a final quarter where a missed tackle or line break could have lost us the game, I was shocked that Eddie hadn’t pulled him off earlier!

    1. Agree with you. A strange decision not to pull him earlier. He was barely trundling from ruck to ruck by the time he got pulled.
      Marler should be back for the next game though so we should see MV given a chance to give his all for 40 or 50 minutes rather than try to eke it out across 75

      1. You’re right Blub, that is Mako’s normal look. He always amazes me how he seems to just appear when needed even if the last time was 50 metres down pitch 10 seconds before. He has a serious engine for a prop!

  3. Itoje and Lawes both look tired. As far as Cole is concerned I am just grateful that he is not crossing the offside line so often. Crossing the gain line would be a bonus and is not really his job. Thought Care deserved an 8. We played with a lot more pace in the first half than usual which was largely down to him. If EJ had had Marler or Fence on the bench Mako would have been off earlier, but it would have been asking a lot of Hepburn to play 25 minutes or so against a strong scrum in only his second appearance. I think Marler will be back next week (and probably suspended again the week after).

  4. On the scores:
    Would dock each of the front row a point for being second best in the scrum against a team I wouldn’t have described as having a particularly fearsome front row. Hopefully this practice vs Georgia will help out.
    Itoje should be no more than a 6 – relatively ineffective by his standards
    Lawes a 5 – not his fault, he’s not a flanker. Tried hard
    Robshaw a 8.5 – the man was everywhere for 80 minutes. Must be one of the fittest players in the world.
    Joseph – a curate’s egg. Perhaps a 6. Not doing anything to disprove my belief that he doesn’t cut it in attack against the top sides.
    My team for the Scots:
    2. Hartley
    3. Cole
    4. Launchbury
    5. Lawes
    Back row difficult as depends who is fit. Perm a selection from
    Robshaw, Underhill, Simmonds, Hughes
    Not sure what we’ll do if neither Hughes or Simmonds are fit? Play Haskell at 8?
    9. Care
    10. Ford
    11. Nowell – still think May would be better as a sub
    12. Farrell
    13. Joseph – had it been any other oppo I’d have gone Te’o but reckon the Scots still have nightmares about Joseph after last year’s performance
    14. Watson – if fit. If not start Nowell and May
    15. Brown

      1. I’d like him to. Always thought he performed very well for England – even if he wasn’t standing out in his club games. A clever carrier of the ball and an all round good 8

  5. I think the scores seem to be a little high across the board, for a game in which we failed to score for 60 minutes, I tend to dislike the negative comments that follows the tighter games, which I must say I enjoy more, but I think our attack looked somewhat blunt against an, albeit workmanlike Welsh defence. Having said that, looking at each score on a standalone basis, it is hard to really mark anyone down in particular.

    Itoje and Lawes I think were slightly less prominent that we are used to, although I agree that Itoje did come up with some strong moments. I’d say an 8 seems generous, especially compared to 7.5 for Robshaw who I thought was great.

    One note on the Farrell missed tackles – after watching the highlights, a lot of these were related to him charging out of the line, either trying to dislodge the ball or slow the player down in instances the tackle didn’t always look likely. I therefore think in this instance, he was likely asked by EJ to do exactly this, to slow the play, and to look at just the stat itself is probably somewhat misleading.

    Joseph did not have his most eye-catching game in an England shirt, and I thought Te’o hit some strong lines last week, which resulted in a lot of space for the wider players. I tend to lean towards Te’o as a starter when having these discussions, although having said that, I don’t think the Scots (or indeed EJ) will have forgotten his hat-trick against them last year.

    1. Aha that makes sense with Farrell – I was pretty shocked by the stat, didn’t really notice him missing tackles in the game, and seven missed is more than some players actually made. Thinking about it, they use a similar ploy at Saracens in that sense. Have one man rushing up and attacking the ball and trusting the rest to hold the line behind.

      1. Also factor in that number of times he managed to dislodge the ball (at least two) and the quality of the tackles he did make and i think it was a good defensive performance from Farrell

  6. Listen to Alex Corbersieros view on his podcast. Throws insight over the game we could only ever hope to have….


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