RWC2019: England Player Ratings Versus South Africa

Tom Curry

The dream is dead.

Once again, England have been bullied and bruised by the South Africans in the biggest game in rugby. The Springboks were well worth their victory on Saturday, whilst Eddie Jones’ recruits looked out of place. It was not the performance of World Cup finalists and they duly paid the price.

Two late tries brought a resounding end to England’s hopes of lifting the Webb Ellis trophy, though they were a firm second best for the entirety of the contest in Yokohama, struggling to cope with the scrum power and the metronomic boot of Handre Pollard.

Here’s how each of the England players got on:

Mako Vunipola – 5
Mako was a useful ball-carrier as Jones’ men tried to pummel their way through the South African defence, selflessly offering his services. However, neither he nor his teammates had too much success in that regard, with the prop’s also having issues at scrum-time.

Jamie George – 6
Another who continuously charged at the Boks line and another who was continuously rebuffed. A couple of dodgy lineout throws were frustrating to see, though they weren’t as concerning as some other areas of England’s play. A brave display, albeit in vain.

Kyle Sinckler –n/a
The match had barely begun when Sinckler hobbled off through injury. How Jones missed the power of the Harlequins star.

Maro Itoje – 7
Itoje was far and away England’s best tackler on Saturday, making 16 in a strong showing. He couldn’t help wrestle momentum from Rassie Erasmus’ side, but nonetheless gave his all in a valiant attempt to turn the tide.

Courtney Lawes – 5
Those pesky lineout problems resurfaced when it mattered most, Lawes looking rather suspect there. It triggered a change in personnel at the break as George Kruis was sent on to fix things, the coach evidently unimpressed, despite some promising line-breaks from the Northampton Saints lock.

Tom Curry – 7
Curry has been the standout performer for the Red Roses in Japan and, yet again, worked tirelessly to pressurise his opponents. Unfortunately, South Africa kept their composure and dealt effectively with the threat of the 21-year-old, though he did secure a handful of notable turnovers.

Sam Underhill – 7 (MOTM)
Up against a phenomenal, beastly backrow of Duane Vermeulen, Siya Kolisis, and Pieter-Steph du Toit, the flanker more than held his own. There were some sizeable hits from Underhill in a strong defensive showing, with his the standout displays of any of the men in white.

Billy Vunipola – 6
Billy did what he has done all tournaments: suck in numbers. As was the case with his previous matches in the Far East, the giant struggled to get any go-forward at Yokohama International Stadium, the South Africans shackling him well and minimising his impact.

Ben Youngs – 3
Kicking. That was pretty much the only area in which Youngs showed his true capabilities. Aside from his accuracy with the boot, he was untidy, hesitant, and a detriment to his team. You’ll never win a World Cup final with such an erroneous showing from your scrum-half. He didn’t look a patch on Faf de Klerk.

George Ford – 4
Ford wasn’t exactly bad over the weekend; he simply came up against a world-class South African pack, who gave him practically no time and space to create anything for England. As a result, there was no penetration and danger coming from further down the backline.

Jonny May – 6
There’s almost nothing to say about May’s attacking display after he was starved of the ball. Defensively – on the other hand – he did himself justice, keeping a watchful eye on the dazzling feet of Cheslin Kolbe.

Owen Farrell – 5
Farrell kept England within touching distance with his kicking from the tee, but far more was needed from Jones’ talisman. His game was summed up by a wayward attempt to tackle Kolbe in the closing minutes, the winger skinning him to seal his country’s third World Cup triumph.

Manu Tuilagi – 5
Where was the authority and vigour that dominated the All Blacks a week prior? Tuilagi was suffocated versus the Springboks, only occasionally getting gainline success.

Anthony Watson – 5
Watson touched the ball a grand total of five times, which should be of no surprise. He was peripheral as England failed to get any fluidity or structure to their play.

Elliot Daly – 6
The fullback handled the high kicks that came raining down upon him, yet did little else. Daly’s defence was solid, having been left exposed by those in front of him.

Luke Cowan-Dickie – 5
Cowan-Dickie made his entrance with England still alive in the contest. A forgettable performance ensured he and the Red Roses left the field as runners-up.

Joe Marler – 5
Likewise ineffective versus the mighty Boks.

Dan Cole – 3
Cole got annihilated by Tendai Mtawarira in the scrums, seriously hampering English chances in Yokohama. This is surely the end of his international career after the veteran proved how much of a downgrade he is to Sinckler.

George Kruis – 7
The lineout appeared to take a boost when Kruis was brought on at half-time. The Saracen was typically industrious and was comfortably Jones’ best performer from the bench.

Mark Wilson – 6
Try as he did, Wilson couldn’t stem the flow of an increasingly one-sided affair.

Ben Spencer – n/a
Didn’t make it off the bench until the very end.

Henry Slade – 6
Slade had limited opportunity to show his fine repertoire of skills, occasionally looking like he’d create some magic, before inevitably being shut down.

Jonathan Joseph – n/a
May as well have stayed on the touchline.

By Ed Alexander

48 thoughts on “RWC2019: England Player Ratings Versus South Africa

  1. Not gonna get into individual scores as it felt more of a collective failing. The forwards lacked intensity the half backs lacked composure under pressure and the backs lacked the ball

  2. A 6! A 6 for Daly!!
    Utterly, utterly outclassed. Failed to catch numerous high balls and was targeted to great effect by the Boks. Is not and has never been a fullback. Not worth more than a 4
    Also too high for Youngs and Cole. A two would be generous for both.
    Youngs may have been under pressure but his perfomance was truly dire. Throwing out awful loopy passes even when not pressurised. His lack of vision and speed was truly exposed and never more so than when England were attacking the Bok line.
    Cole had one main job. It was tough to be bought on so early and I could understand it if he wilted by the end. But he was poor from the start and destroyed by the Beast in exactly the same way as Vickery in 2009. You can question the refereeing of Mtawarira’s technique but it doesn’t matter – Cole had to respond and he failed to.
    I’d knock a couple of marks off Watson just for his bloody stupid, irritating, obvious obstruction.
    And I’d give Marler a mark or two more, the scrum improved significantly after he came on

    1. Pablito, Youngs has never been more exposed as when England were camped on South Africa’s try line at one point a quick ball to Curry would’ve almost seen him over, same with Underhill, options out wide earlier then when he sent it but then when he did send it wide South Africa had recovered and pushed us back about 15-20 metres.

      Heinz I have liked this World Cup but if we are to build a team now to win in 2023 I fear at a post 30 age his ship has sailed if this is to be true I hope Young’s ship is casting the course.

        1. But Eddie is culpable for the whole scrum half situation. Absolutely everyone has been saying it was going to blow up in our faces at some point.

      1. The only upside of the game is I hope to God it marks the end of Young’s pathetic career. He has been a disgrace to the team for years and an utter handbrake to any attack.

        1. Harsh words Rob. I have advocated moving on from Youngs for the past two years and don’t think he is anything like the player he was a few years ago, but Gatland rated him highly enough to select him for the Lions and nobody who has won 94 caps has had a pathetic career. He did not pick himself, and if he was retained for too long (which we nearly all agree on), that is down to EJ, not to the player himself. When we won 18 on the trot there were not too many people calling for his head!

    2. Thumbs up for all that Pabs, especially Marler. True warrior, hope he doesn’t disappear again.
      Think we all knew how good Sinckler has become, maybe even more influential than we thought. Never got to see if he could handle Beastie Boy, which is a bit of a shame really. Ben Youngs had a proper off day, and will be properly gutted I expect.
      In hindsight it would have been better to start Cruise and Marler. Gain at least parity for the first 40. Once the ref has got you in their sights it’s a losing battle….bet Steve Walsh enjoyed it though.
      Always surprised that for a scrum penalty, which lets be honest is the dark arts, no TMO views are used. Never got to see a top view of any scrum which would prove/disprove any illegality from the beastie boy. Doesn’t remove the fact Coles should have enough nounce by now to have figured it ought. Maybe Cruise behind him would have helped. Always thought Lawes was a second half finisher, matches up with Sinkler really well.
      Daly….all been said hasn’t it..
      Billy looked fatigued didn’t he, personified in the apathetic submission to any attempt to tackle Kolbe at the end….
      So will EJ continue? I hope so, good win ratio, always entertaining, but realise it’s personal taste. Like to see him through the 6N. Also realise his history has him self destruct at some point….mmmmmmm?

  3. Not much to grumble about here.

    One little thing on the game, I like to see 100% until the final whistle and I know the game was dead when Kolbe scored but would anyone else like to have seen big Billy at least try and rattle the teeth out of Cheslins head?

    I think he could’ve got to him, don’t think it would’ve stopped the score but at least try rather than back off as he did.

  4. Many weeks ago, Matt Dawson said that we were never going to win a World Cup with Ben Youngs as scrum half. He should know, as he was the last truly international class player we had in that position. I have never understood Eddie Jones’ blindness in that crucial area of the game. Watch the Eng/NZ game again and you’ll often see the front row acting in Youngs place as he’s metres away and it’s the only way quick ball can be secured. When playing SA, the front row had their hands full and couldn’t do BY’s job as well as theirs. Our kingdom for two world class scrum halves by 2023!

    1. Jim this was the same Matt Dawson who only last week pre WC final said if you had to name a combined Eng/SA fifteen it would be 15 English as they are better in every area. Dawson changes his tune to the moment. That said his original comment was correct. Youngs is/has been a liability for some time now, but all too late now

      1. But Eddie is culpable for the whole scrum half situation. Absolutely everyone has been saying it was going to blow up in our faces at some point.

      2. Though not I’m one to agree often with MD, I thought this was taken out of context a bit. On paper, I think many of us would’ve chosen the entire England XV over the SA counterparts, especially after the NZ game. Maybe with the exception being Pollard.
        I enjoy a ‘Pick your own XV’ as much as the next person, but these are hugely subjective and only really take past performances and player reputation into account. SA played better as a team, as a unit, regardless of whether or not their players on paper are better than England’s.

  5. It was a tough day at the office for England.

    Using forwards as a preface, if the old adage is that it’s forwards who win you games, then it’s forwards who lose them. I think SA were holding something back in their scrum and let it loose in the final but how does a scrum like England’s get so badly schooled in the first half. It wasn’t just Sinckler coming off and he himself was the architect of his own demise running into Itoje’s elbow. Before he came off there were signs, and the team looked nervy.

    So England were missing leadership when they needed it most. And it was needed from the forwards not from the backs. For me Steve Borthwick needs accountability. The forwards were just not at the races and I didn’t see leadership in that department. There needs to be better decision making scrum by scrum by the forwards collectively and surely Borthwick let them down there. It looked fixed at half time but England were already 6 down then and SA were in control.

    It’s Tom Curry for who stood up for England. He was brilliant and never took off his silver medal. He wore it like a man, painful as it was for him no doubt. He was gracious in defeat and unbowed and unbroken after the 80. This is your future captain England I believe. Farrell probably had no choice but to be captain as there weren’t really the leaders there to step up but now I think it has arrived and Curry is that man. Courtney Lawes never took his medal off either. It might not matter to most but I do think it’s a sign of character and something to think about in the future. Maro Itoje, like the Brexit remoaner he is, didn’t even allow it to be put around his neck, like he wasn’t accepting the result. Yes, in Ireland we know what remoaners and brexiteers are.

    I don’t want to go on too much about the medals because it’s already a contentious enough issue online. It’s easy to put on a bronze medal because you just earned it by winning a game. You might not feel like putting on a silver when you got it for losing and playing poorly. So England shouldn’t be slated for this. That’s how they felt. But I do think the real leaders wore them and Lawes and Curry wore theirs. You have to wear your defeats and your bad performances, not just your wins and good ones. Treat those imposters just the same.

    Overall, England had a great campaign and the BBC have a listing of player performances throughout the whole world cup. It’s important to be positive:

    1. “Maro Itoje, like the Brexit remoaner he is…”!!
      God you have to be stupid to write this kind of stuff. Maro is an absolute credit to the English team and we are lucky to have him. His work rate and commitment has been off the charts. Oh and last time I looked Ireland is full of remoaners…funny that.

      1. One of the players of the tournament, not disputing that but he should have at least allowed the medal to be put on him. I wouldn’t make him captain.

        1. What a dumb comment about Maro, Brexit ain’t got owt to do with this and how would you know which way he voted anyhow?

          Lets file this comment under B where it belongs.

    2. Oh please, can we just deal with one clusterf*ck at a time and focus on the Final, without half-arsed Brexit references?!
      I agree that Curry (and Underhill) both gave their all, and that we were found out in terms of scrummaging strength and leadership – ie. the ability to play what’s in front of us, rather than to a pre-ordained gameplan – which we thought had been resolved, but clearly not…
      Whether the players wore their medals after the game has the square root of bugger all to do with anything – they were humble in defeat and unanimously agreed that they had been outplayed by a better team.

    3. Biggles, WTH! You’re digging yrself in deeper & deeper. ‘A tough day at the office’? Unless you’d hit everyone over the head with a baseball bat, no one would have got that. Does yr entire repotoire consist of stating the obvious? And FCOL, if you wear a silver medal you should be made captain?! Are you on hallucinogenic stuff? Need to get a grip! No, no, not that sort of grip!

  6. Marler deserves more and Youngs and Daly deserve less.

    Daly needs to show some serious improvement in form before he gets anywhere near England again. I really hope we’ve seen the last of Youngs one good performance in 10 just isn’t good enough.

  7. i think we’ll see a few new faces come the start of the 6N Jones isn’t the sentimental type and should he decide to stay on then the rebuild for ’23 effectively began on Saturday afternoon.

    1. With the world cup in mind here’s the training squad I would like to see for the 6N

      Hookers: George, LCD, Singleton
      Props: Mako, Genge, Obano, Sinks, Williams, Ford-Robinson
      Locks: Itoje (c), Ewels, isekwe, Hill
      Backrow: Dombrant, Ludlow, Ludlam, Willis, Mercer, Curry (vc), Underhill, Vunipola
      Scrum Half: Spencer, Robson, Mitchell
      Fly Half: Ford, M.Smith
      Centre: Lozowski, Slade, Devoto, Marchant
      Wing: Nowell ,Cocka, Daly, Ibitoye
      Fullback: Watson

      1. I appreciate the need for some fresh blood, but cutting Kruis, Launchberry, Farrell, Tuilagi and May completely is ridiculous. They’re all late 20’s and could all conceivably make the next WC. All of them performed relatively well, baring the final.

          1. they would all be 32/33 by next tournament. While not inconceivable that they will still be the best in their position I don’t see it happening for anyone outside the front 5. Kruis and Launchbury potentially could be up there but May will have slowed and Tui/Faz will be on the decline

            1. Good point.
              The game has changed – bigger, faster, fitter players, possibly meaning average player age at international level becomes lower – but I would still expect some of those players to play. Not sure how May will sustain his pace, but think Tuilagi and Farrell will still be there or thereabouts. They are two of England’s standout performers and have only just hit peak physical age.

              1. I just think the physical style of play that they both use takes its toll. Happy to be proven wrong but don’t want to build a game plan around them only for their form to drop off a cliff 1 year out

        1. I’ve a feeling we’ll see fewer new faces than we may expect in the New Year.
          Cole is two caps from being a centurion, surely it would take a heart of stone to deny him that accolade?
          I’d guestimate Robson ,Spencer,Schonert and Hill.

        1. Good question Don. i really don’t “get” Daly.
          I remember reading that he was one of those lads for whom sports just came naturally at school. His games tutors said he could just as easily have been a really good soccer player.
          It makes me think the may just come TOO easily to him so he doesn’t always fully concentrate, call it Cips syndrome. I’m not a Wasps follower and it would be good to hear from one that is about his overall approach and levels of consistency.

          1. Hard to state Acee, but as Daly is primarily a 13, it seems an anomaly that EJ ever played him at wing, then f/back. Daly could have insisted that he be played at centre, but then he may not have played for Eng at all. Or he possibly just wanted to have played for Eng? He may, or may not, be in a better position now to insist on his being played at his ‘natural’ 13 posi. Currently, if selected nxt time, he might be better to insist on being given a run in midfield, particularly if at home & v ‘weaker’ opposition. More so as his tenure at 15 may now also be under threat.

            1. Daly does cop a lot of stick given he isn’t a fullback and maybe doesn’t even want there. The reason he is in this dubious position is because he was so highly rated people thought he could play anywhere. I remember listening to pitbull and Rob Andrew discussing how at international level everything is speeded up so that if you don’t play there at club will make mistakes.
              The problem for Eddie is that he wants a fullback who can distribute and attack from the 13 channel. Daly can do this in a way no other fullback can, unless I am mistaken? But he isn’t a fullback so can’t execute the basics. Bit of a conundrum. I stil l think.he deserves a shot at playing 13 which Don and I both agree on. But who then plays fullback?

              1. Anyone who can catch and tackle and will be around for the next World Cup Bolter. Watson, Marshall, Woodward, Watson, my Great Aunt Mary?

                1. I have long been an advocate of Nowell at 15. He just seems to have all the attributes to be a quality full back. But with Hogg at Exeter I can’t see him getting the game time.

  8. Is the player ratings system overly weighted towards winning teams & their attacking players? Conversely, are ratings awarded to teams’ defenders, when they hardly see the ball, overly negative? Cole for instance & who I don’t particularly admire because of his giving away pens for spurious lyings on, nevertheless seemed to cop it for the whole fr row. As there are 3 FR’ers, are the other 2 (media, fan favs?), MV & Geo, disproportionately let off the hook? Dunno much about scrums like Frans, but is the grunt mainly down to 1 man? Can understand some modest scores engendered by Daly’s fumbles for example. However, with England’s 14 turnovers, why did Cunderhill score so highly? Were they overly absolved from responsibility for these? I don’t know for sure, but ratings’ scores do make me wonder sometimes. What criteria are they are based on? Anyone know?

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