England have righted past wrongs and exorcised their demons during a stellar start to the 2019 Six Nations Championship. As the outstanding side in the opening rounds of the competition, Eddie Jones’ cohort cemented their newfound position as tournament-favourites with a vintage display against a weary French side. Here, we look at the performances of the England’s players performed at Twickenham on Sunday.
Mako Vunipola – 8
One of the key men leading this England resurgence, Vunipola has shown himself to be world-class in multiple areas of the game. His work with ball-in-hand kept the opposition occupied, whilst he had a clear edge over Demba Bamba at scrum-time. He stamped England’s authority on the match in the first minute, forcing a turnover with a sizeable tackle. Let’s hope his substitution for an apparent injury was merely a precaution.
Jamie George – 7
Consistency is the name of the game for Jamie George. Yet again, he showed himself to be effective at hooker, further strengthening his position in Jones’ starting XV. George’s accuracy at the set-piece is essential in providing the backs with structure and stability, whilst his mobility helps him plough through shedloads of work.
Kyle Sinckler – 7.5
Like his fellow front-rowers, Sinckler was in fine form for England at Twickenham. More than just a powerful runner for puncturing defences, the Harlequin has intelligence to his play and the accompanying deft hands to free up space for his teammates. This encounter with the French showcased his abilities in this regard.
Courtney Lawes – 8.5
This was an exhibition of precisely what Courtney Lawes adds to a side. He carried hard in traffic, was a menace for the opposition lineout, and left attackers shuddering when they ran into him – Mathieu Bastareaud, in particular, will be avoiding the towering lock. That Maro Itoje’s absence was not at all felt against the French stands testament to Lawes’ immaculate showing; those boots take a lot of filling, indeed.
George Kruis – 6
In a similar fashion to last week, Kruis’ value lay in doing the unglamorous work for his side. Solid in the lineouts, sound in defence, and a willing worker around the park; this was a standard performance from the Saracens man. However, he may need to add more to his all-round game with the huge competition in the second-row right now.
Mark Wilson – 8
In Dublin, Wilson was a man-possessed. Back at Twickenham, he was equally influential for England, though with perhaps a little less intensity. Nevertheless, Wilson was hugely impressive; his tenacity and power as a tackler adds real steel to the England defence. His work-rate and desire will both spur on teammates and please Jones’ coaching set-up.
Tom Curry – 8
Curry provided the iconic image from this round of fixtures as cameras caught him stood panting, painted in his own blood. The picture encapsulates how Curry played against France; dogged and effective, les bleus were unable to prevent him constantly disrupting their play. Like Wilson, he is becoming a leader of England’s defensive efforts.
Billy Vunipola – 6.5
Billy underlined his importance without sparkling this week. Often cited for his physical attributes, his reading of France’s kicks and ability to cover the backfield showed he has a shrewd, tactical mind, too. Bruising but not brilliant, Billy did what was necessary.
Ben Youngs – 7
It was always going to be difficult to match the level of performance he reached last week. However, Youngs still kept his backs well-organised and maintained quality ball-service for them. Youngs’ kicking game seemed slightly off, but perhaps that is only when contrasted with its excellence in Dublin.
Owen Farrell – 8.5
A second-half try was a fitting way for Farrell to cap an accomplished display. The French backline struggled to cope with the variety he brought to his play, with his stabs- and chips-ahead causing chaos for Yoann Huget and co. It was these kicks – consistently creating fine attacking positions – that really took the contest beyond the visitors, helping to secure a relatively straightforward bonus-point.
Jonny May – 9 (MOTM)
The link-play between May and the England halfbacks was crucial in toppling the Irish last time out, and it proved central again this week. With Youngs and Farrell engineering opportunities at will, a winger with May’s skillset was always going to prosper. His remarkable pace and clinical finishing helped take advantage of the well-weighted kicks and open-spaces that came his way.
Manu Tuilagi – 6.5
Despite preventing a probable try for the French, Tuilagi had a quiet game by his standards. The highly-anticipated clash with Bastareaud never truly emerged. He is another that will hope to have more of an impact in the future; this is understandable given that he is still easing his way back onto the International scene.
Henry Slade – 8
Slade is the perfect man to bridge the gap between the power of Tuilagi on his inside and the pace of May on his out. He has a pair of hands to bamboozle defences and carve out opportunities for teammates, whilst he himself also poses a readily-apparent threat to the try-line. His aerial prowess led to a number of chances for his side, showing that he has much more to offer than your average playmaker.
Chris Ashton – 6
Six long years have passed since Ashton last started in Six Nations… and he duly receives a six-out-of-ten for his showing. Unfortunately for him, England favoured attacking down May’s wing, leaving the Sale Shark with little to feed off. He looked hungry and threatening when he did get a chance, but these came too few and far between to leave a lasting impact on the encounter.
Elliot Daly – 7.5
England’s first try demonstrates what Daly brings to the fullback shirt. His swift counter-attack in the opening stages set the tone for the day, giving England a platform from which to build their lead. His work under the high-ball had been questioned after last week, but he looked assured and capable on Sunday.
Ben Moon – 6.5
In terms of the scrums, Moon picked up where Vunipola left off. His abilities as a scrummager are well-known, so it was unsurprising to see him keep that area of the game on lock-down.
Luke Cowan-Dickie – 7
Vigorous and energetic as ever, Cowan-Dickie will be useful for helping to see out future games. Whenever he is brought off the bench, he seems to add intensity to the forwards and this was the case against France.
Dan Cole – 7
On his return to the international arena, Cole was typically reliable. There was nothing flashy in his game; everything was industrious and robust, everything one wants in a tighthead.
Joe Launchbury – 7.5
His tackle-count of eleven is immense for a substitute lock. He is evidently a man with a point to prove and he certainly did so when given the opportunity. Don’t be surprised to see him included against the Welsh.
Nathan Hughes – 6.5
Hughes fits the bill as a ‘finisher’ for Eddie Jones. He brings dynamism and impetus when he comes off the bench, both of which are useful in seeing out a game. A few offloads caught the eye here, suggesting a more delicate aspect to the backrower’s game.
Dan Robson – n/a
Why did Eddie Jones leave it so late to bring Robson on for his debut?
George Ford – 6
With the game wrapped-up by the time he took to the field, Ford had little work to do. Far from disappointing, but unlikely to threaten the starting positions of those ahead of him.
Jack Nowell – 6
Nowell had much the same problem as Ashton, a lack of ball preventing him from truly asserting himself. When ball did come his way he looked sharp, but ultimately this didn’t happen often enough.
By Ed Alexander