RWC Warm-ups: England Player Ratings Versus Wales

Lewis Ludlam

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.

Subs
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

17 thoughts on “RWC Warm-ups: England Player Ratings Versus Wales

  1. Unlikely that Cole will be transformed into an all action dynamo by the time the squad arrive in Japan. He scrummages. Thats it. Dont expect anything else. Williams did miss one tackle, but still made 5 (Cole made 3) and handled the ball (Cole didnt)
    Some of the marks seem a bit high to me and Genge MOTM raised an eyebrow, though he did have a good game..
    Ludlam impressed on debut, Watson and Joseph made really strong returns to the side and Curry looked the best player on the pitch while he was there.

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      1. Totally agree, people often get impressed by carries and tackles but this is not rugby league, its union were you have an enormous deal at the breakdown. He clears very good and way too often does not get recognized by that. Cole would not have amassed 80 caps in these times only by scrummaging, coaches know this and that is why they rate him. Not flashy but does nasty unnoticed work. Eventhough, that is not reason to not tell him to get a few more carries and tackles!

  2. I think the scorer got a bit carried away by that performance Launchbury, Cockanasiga, Ludlam and Joseph are not near going to be first choice players and will more likely feature off the bench or starting against USA/Tonga the first choice players in their positions are Itoje, May, Nowell, Wilson and Slade repectively

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  3. for the record, Piers Francis, born in Kent, schooled in kent, saracens academy….went and played in NZ for a few years …..not a New Zealand native

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  4. Dan Cole……… For me the prop selection has been Ed’s biggest balls up in this squad. He’s over loaded the backs to the detriment of the front row.
    Cole was marginal at best on Sunday and as Steve points out, he ain’t going to be winding the clock back to his heyday come Japan. To my eyes he even looked physically smaller and lighter than he has before.
    For this nonsense and the non selection of Harry Williams I’m giving Ed a three on the “Whoops” scale.

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  5. Re wingers. Difficult selection.
    Daly’s boot is such a weapon and could make a vital difference in knock out games. But surely he can’t play fullback again? He is not very good at all in that position.
    I’d have kept MB in but without him, it has to be May and Daly on the wings with Watson at FB doesn’t it?
    Then a bench spot to either Nowell (if fit) or Cokasaniga – possibly dependent on opposition

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    1. Daly in a fantastic player, he is just not a fullback

      He looked good on the wing for England and B&IL but this is already a highly competitive area. He is a centre by trade so would slot in well at outside centre if given the chance and would possibly be even better than Slade.
      Watson looked assured under the highball at the weekend and given Brown exclusion would be my pick for fullback i would like to see Eddie at least try Daly at centre for one of the warm up games

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      1. Yeah would like to see him tried. But given EJ has never tried him there, I would be surprised if he did now.
        On Slade, he has been improving with every game and has pulled off some quite lovely bits of play. He also offers tactical kicking. And I think if we’ll be playing Tuilagi at 12, we need playmaking and kicking skill at 13. Daly would be more complementary at 13 to the likes of Farrell at 12
        But agree with you that Daly’s best position is probably 13

        1. If EJ was going to go there then the next two games is the time as Slade is currently injured as was wearing a brace in the press conference on Monday. With Marchant out of the squad that only leaves JJ as his competition for the 13 shirt

      2. Leon, if Eddie were going to try Daly @ centre, wouldn’t he have done so Yonks ago? Likely only injury would enforce this now. Of course I could be wrong knowing the grinning gnome.

  6. I am still slightly confused about whether Jack Singleton took part in the match at all. As far as I can tell the last play involved a forward pass from L C-D, so where did Singleton feature? Happy to be enlightened.

    1. Is a bit weird but it appears Launcbury came off for Singleton. So I guess Lawes went from the back row to the second row and LCD went to the back row.
      Very Eddie Jones

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  7. f EJ was going to go there then the next two games is the time as Slade is currently injured as was wearing a brace in the press conference on Monday. With Marchant out of the squad that only leaves JJ as his competition for the 13 shirt

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