RWC2019: England Player Ratings Versus New Zealand

Maro Itoje

Phenomenal. England were simply phenomenal on Saturday as a whirlwind performance swept the All Blacks aside in Yokohama. Eddie Jones’ men have reached their fourth World Cup final and first since 2007, progressively improving as the tournament has gone on.

An early score from Manu Tuilagi helped the Red Roses to establish a sizeable lead over New Zealand, which appeared to have grown greater when Sam Underhill crossed the whitewash. However, both he and Ben Youngs were denied tries by the TMO, before a botched lineout allowed Ardie Savea to reignite the contest.

It mattered not, with George Ford’s accuracy from the tee sealing a famous 19-7 triumph over the two-time defending champions. Here’s how each member of the England team got on.

Mako Vunipola – 9
There wasn’t a single error from Mako in a virtuoso showing from the loosehead, who excelled in every area of the game. His enormous tally of 16 carries was essential to England getting on the front foot as they bludgeoned through the All Blacks defence.

Jamie George – 7
For the most part, George was at his usual brilliant best. Of course, that error at the lineout wasn’t entirely his fault, but it could have undone all of his side’s work against the World Cup holders. Fortunately, it had no impact on the result; Jones will hope there’s no repeat in the final.

Kyle Sinckler – 8
Like his propping partner, Sinckler was used to wonderful effect as his aggression and power stole precious metres for the English. Injury ended his evening early, with supporters now anxiously awaiting news of how serious the problem is.

Courtney Lawes – 9
Lawes demonstrated precisely why Jones selected him ahead of the equally-capable George Kruis on Saturday, offering his fierce defence and purposeful running to bully the All Blacks. They had no answer for the intensity of the England’s second rows.

Maro Itoje – 10 (MOTM)
In almost every single one of his 36 international tests – barring the year of 2018 – Itoje has been exceptional for his side. And yet, his display versus the Kiwis stands out amongst all of those performances; it was his finest hour on a rugby field.

Tom Curry – 9
Curry was everywhere at Yokohama International Stadium. The All Blacks weren’t given a moment’s rest by the flankers, whose tenacity, speed of thought, and terrifying skillset ensured his opponents couldn’t gain a foothold in the contest.

Sam Underhill – 9
After Savea’s try had handed New Zealand a lifeline, Underhill’s response was inspiring. Steve Hansen’s men couldn’t build any momentum against a defiant England backline, which was led by the Bath flanker. He was his country’s top tackler, with his shuddering hit on Jordie Barrett showing every single viewer which team was in charge.

Billy Vunipola – 8
Far and away Billy’s strongest display in Japan. In 17 carries, the behemoth made 35 metres, whilst his defence was similarly impressive. He epitomises the way England have grown as the tournament has gone on.

Ben Youngs – 7
Youngs was unlucky to have his score chalked off, but generally gave a good account of himself in such a pressurised environment. There were a couple of dodgy moments for the scrum-half, though nothing to be too concerned about in an otherwise-convincing evening.

George Ford – 9
Ford wanted to be given more responsibility, was handed it by Jones, and rewarded his coach for doing so. His kicking was immaculate, the 26-year-old racking up the points from the tee and keeping the Kiwis penned back in their own territory.

Jonny May – 7
We didn’t get to witness the true abilities of May as he continues his recovery from a minor hamstring issue. That doesn’t mean he didn’t contribute to the victory, however, with his aerial prowess again on full display for all to see.

Owen Farrell – 8
If the Red Roses were to conquer the mighty All Blacks, they were going to need several leaders to stand up and take the game to their opponents. Farrell was always going to be one of those leading the England charge, punching holes in the backline and scything down anything that came his way.

Manu Tuilagi – 9
What a beautiful sight it is to see Tuilagi pick his line and clatter into defences. Whether you support Jones’ team or not, you have to admit it’s been a shame for the sport that Manu’s career has been hampered by injuries. He made up for lost time with an all-round marvellous showing that left New Zealand rocking and reeling.

Anthony Watson – 8
91 metres gained demonstrates the electric pace Watson possesses. Give him a yard and he’ll give you hell. George Bridge found that out the hard way as the fleet-footed winger left him looking foolish.

Elliot Daly – 8
When kicking out-of-hand, Daly was spot on. When the fullback was asked to take down a Kiwi runner, he did so with aplomb. When he zipped away from the clutches of Richie Mo’unga, he set up a try that launched an unforgettable night for England.

Substitutes
Luke Cowan-Dickie – 7

The Exeter Chiefs icon only entered proceedings on 70 minutes, yet asserted himself well, picking up where George had left off.

Joe Marler – 7
Another who came on for a brief cameo and maintained England’s control of the encounter.

Dan Cole – 7
Sinckler’s withdrawal saw Cole come on ahead of schedule. That was no issue for the veteran as he busied himself around the field of play.

George Kruis – 8
England had to kill off New Zealand following Savea’s score and Kruis was integral to them doing so. He obliterated one All Black runner and stopped numerous others dead in their tracks.

Mark Wilson – 8
Wilson’s turnover in the final ten minutes came at a decisive time in the match; had the English conceded rather than won the ball back, we may have had a very different story.

Willi Heinz – 7
Heinz did everything that was needed to keep England ticking over and strangle the life from New Zealand.

Henry Slade – 8
Sevu Reece seemed set to reduce the deficit until some heroic defending from Slade denied him. The importance of the centre’s tackle cannot be overstated.

Jonathan Joseph – n/a

By Ed Alexander

34 thoughts on “RWC2019: England Player Ratings Versus New Zealand

  1. Not much to argue with here but am I alone in thinking Jonny May’s injury was hampering him in the game?

    The break he had to the corner with Barrett closing him down he seemed to be wading through treacle a bit, I know Barrett is no slouch but I feel a fully fit May would of skinned him and gone over into the corner.

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    1. Slade needs a decent run in the centre now. Due to injuries largely, he’s never solidified that centre-pairing. As a confidence player, this 6Ns he’ll hopefully do just that. A deserved 8 score. Jones may have to play Cokanasiga in the final where his defence will hopefully not let him down.

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      1. I really think the world cup has swallowed up world rugby. It’s what it’s all about. It’s not that the 6 nations is coming, it’s that the next 4 year cycle that has just begun. If England don’t get the slam, it’s because they are not up for it. Best northern hemisphere team by a mile right now, and as an Irishman, that’s hard to admit. But they are. France look 2nd best and will be a force to be reckoned with. I think France would have beaten South Africa but could have would have should have. Didn’t.

        Japan did a great job but we were robbed of a genuine tournament because of the typhoon. No France V England and who knows what would have happened if that game went ahead. It’s all irrelevant now. For me, the final was indeed England V New Zealand. South Africa and Wales are a bit off the pace.

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  2. No arguments from me. I’m not sure about giving any player a 10 unless they alone made the difference but if you have to give it then Itoje was the man. Curry and Underhill in particular worth every bit of that 9, as was Ford. But all 15 were exceptional. You could make an argument for Watson and Daly to get 9’s too but the AB’s were poor in defence on the left flank and flattered them a little there. Farrell could be a 7 after his knock on earlier in the game but then he did everything else pretty damn well. You can argue about the psychological impact he had with his behaviour in the Haka, but he wasn’t stand out on the field. Ford outshone him a little in this game. It was England I felt that had dual playmakers.

    New Zealand were rattled early on and a few players in particular caved on the big stage:

    Retallick, Mo’unga and Reece in my opinion let themselves down, especially Retallick but the enormous pressure they were under forced that. Even the 20 minute highlight reel form world rugby doesn’t show you just how heavy the beatings were coming in from tackles by England’s enormous physicality. In the land of the Kiwis, they only really give credit to one player – Goodhue! Such was the feeling there that the All Blacks didn’t live up to their billing. I think England didn’t let them for the most part.

    My worry about rugby union in the modern era is becoming all about who gets on top early and blows the other team away. I felt England had them mentally beaten when they went 10-0 up and there was no way back as long as they just kept bringing it to them which they certainly did.

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  3. Itoje was outstanding but has to be knocked down to 9.5 for his part in the line out screw which lead to the NZ try. Harsh as he was outstanding, but does mean he didn’t have a perfect 10/10 game!

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    1. Don’t think there is much in that… It seems to be more a timing issue than anything.

      On another note, having looked at he NZ press, apparently Slade elbowed Reece in the head (!!!) – lesson in human anatomy clearly needed and Farrell is a villian for being punched in the face by Whitelock… Our players would indeed love to have a press that are so good at circling the wagons.

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        1. Not sure I like Farrell after his antics in the Haka and this playacting. But psychology is always a part of England’s game.

          I remember when England made our President walk on the grass in Dublin. I don’t care what Johnson says. They knew exactly what they were doing as imperial overmasters of old and they did it again in this semi, encroaching past the half way line against the Haka and Farrell smirking on 1000’s of years of tradition. That’s the English for you.

          But they will still be more than worthy winners of the cup if they can win it. No denying that.

          1. To slightly misquote the Liberal Democrats at the last election “Bollocks to Bigglesworth” who I notice has now promoted himself to “Mr.” Why should England allow the AB´s to try to intimidate them with the Haka? Johnson made your beloved president walk on the grass because he wanted to emphasise that his team were not going to take a backward step to anyone. The ludicrous whinge that “psychology is always part of England´s game?” Of course it bloody well is, just as it is for every other country in the world. You haven´t been posting on here long Bigglesworth, but your post-colonialist crap and lack of knowledge of the game are considerably more irritating than Don P. Leave your chips on the shoulder out of it or bugger off would be my advice.

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            1. Also ref the Johnson affair, I believe that they had tossed the coin and Johnson had lined his team up on the side from which they would be playing the 1st half. There was a whole unused patch of carpet for the Irish PM to walk on but it was the Irish rugby team who chose to stand to the right of England and on the grass out of some superstition. All that said, if it helps people feel angry about the English and press home unfounded arrogance claims then there isn’t much we can do about that.

              Ref the Haka and the English response, I have only heard positive comments from the Kiwis.

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              1. Yes SJ, that is exactly what I understand about the Martin Johnson belligerence. Yes, once in position he was bloody-minded and arrogant, but Ireland created the initial situation, not Johnson.

            2. Relax Andrew. You were easily provoked. Not an Austin Powers fan I presume, maybe it’s before your time. Is it even a real surname?

              1. What are you on about Ronnie Biggs? WTF’s A Powers got to do with anything let alone, er rugby?! Ditto Andy’s surname? Are you in therapy? If not, why not?

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              2. Certainly a more likely one than Bigglesworth I would say. Given that I am pushing 70, yes I remember Austin Powers. They were crap films. As Don asks, what the hell has he got to do with rugby?

          2. Not sure it was a malevolent smirk – more of a self-confident ‘you do your dance and we’ll see’ type of thing. There’s no law that says you have to bow down to the thing.

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            1. But apparently there is a law that says you can’t encroach in NZ’s half while they do their little jig. As wilful transgressors of this sacrosanct law, England are being fined £2k! I have to ask who on earth made this rule and voted it through as a sensible idea? EVERY kiwi I’ve heard give an opinion thought England’s response was exactly what is required, desired even, in reaction to the Haka.

              I speak as someone who really enjoys the Haka, but other teams must be allowed to respond how they see fit.
              The mandate to “respect” it is insane. In my experience, Kiwis themselves, especially M?ori people, want it challenged.

  4. The only score I would change would be an 8 for Jamie George. He made a couple of good runs with ball in hand, was solid in the set piece and (imo) deserves an 8.

    Just a note on the lost line out. Watch the replay closely and you’ll see Reid’s hand on Curry’s shoulder as he lifts Itoje> Not picked up by the TMO and difficult for the ref to spot, but may have just been enough to stop Itoje getting to the ball?

    What I liked is that even after New Zealand scored their try, the whole team just went about their business, and got straight back into the game. Straight back into the opposition half and start causing havoc with the most solid defensive display I’ve seen from an England team.

    We almost nilled the ABs!!!!!

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    1. Agree Dazza. In the 6N, when England conceded, they would do their utmost to compound the issue and gift more points to the opposition. They seem more focused now.

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  5. Something I read blamed Cole’s lift for the lost lineout – may have been the Sunday Times, so take it with a pinch of salt
    A shame because apart from Reece’s dart down the wing which was well covered by Tuilagi even before Slade hit him, they did not look like scoring at all
    On the scores – I would put Youngs lower. The only weak link for me. The amount of time he was taking to get from ruck to ruck was turning super-quick ball into just ok ball. Had we been as quick as the Japanese to get that clean ball away, we’d have been looking at more scores. Oh for a scrum half as quick as Robson or someone like Reinach
    On the plus side, he took his (non) try well

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    1. I disagree here Pab.
      I’m not BYs biggest fan but he’s definitely gotten better as the tournament has gone on. He’s been better with the speed of delivery, as evidenced by the first try on Saturday. His box kicking was also accurate.
      You may wish for speed but surely there is a reason why Robson and Reinach aren’t featuring in this world cup (I know Reinach has played a bit but he is 3rd choice for SA).

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  6. Jake, Robson is not there because he was not fit enough after illness. Reinach is not there because SA has two scrum halves who are better than him or Youngs.

  7. Hells bells Andy! You’re suddenly my best friend! Most uplifting, insightful comment on Mr. Big it up ever & even more so as you advocate heads down! Agree that the plastic Paddy has more rabbit than Sainsburys. Puts the boot into his own, then sucks up to England. Makes Benedict look good. Gives it large like some erudite sage about how shot the ABs are on the back of 1 game & after they’d demolished his lot. Couldn’t make it up could you? Only been here 5 minutes, is utterly subjective & is ‘louder’ than Concorde landing on our eardrums! Had our diffs on ‘style’, maybe more, but in concord on this occasion I think. 10/10 @ least. Glass of red’s on me!

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    1. As has been mentioned this is an English rugby site first and foremost. Don P. is probably Andy’s sock puppet in this echo chamber.

      1. Don’t need a puppet Bigglesworth, I can speak for myself. I have been bantering quite happily on this site for the past three or four years, as has Don P., usually fairly politely and amicably, but every now and then a complete idiot with a nasty attitude comes along and spoils it for everybody. You are quite clearly a rude, ignorant tit, and I have read one of your posts for the last time, so please don’t bother to respond. Just get back under your bridge with the other trolls.

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  8. Are you trying to reconstruct the myth that Paddies are thick Biggles? ‘This is an English rugby site first and foremost’! Are you pulling my leg? What are you doing here then you dozy Irishman!? I’ve been here for, oh I dunno, 5 yrs or so. You arrived 5 minutes ago. Unless you’d hit me over the head with a baseball bat, I’d never have guessed in a million about the site’s origin. ‘Talk’ about putting yr foot in it. I’m with Andy on this 1. If you’d been around a Little longer than 5, you may have witnessed our occasional tête-à-têtes. The only echo chamber is in yr empty head fella.

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