We’re two games into the 2019 Rugby World Cup and England have done what was required of them, securing bonus-point victories against Tonga and then the USA.
There was a clear step up in quality and focus versus the Americans on Thursday, Eddie Jones’ boys putting on a show to run in seven tries. There were some dazzling displays from the backs and a couple of powerful performances in the pack, but one man’s star shone brightest by far.
Here’s how the England players fared versus the States.
Joe Marler – 6
Afforded just one half of rugby, Marler can be pleased with his day’s work, despite offering little in the loose. Instead, the Harlequins prop channelled all of his energy into scrum-time, ensuring England had a strong base from which to attack.
Luke Cowan-Dickie – 7
Only one of Cowan-Dickie’s 14 throws failed to find its target, though there will be more troublesome lineout operators about when the Argentines and French come to the party. He was equally productive with ball in hand, carrying with purpose and more frequency than most of the other forwards.
Dan Cole – 6
A typical Dan Cole performance. There was nothing too flashy – with much of his work unseen – but the tighthead celebrated his 90th cap in fitting fashion as he put the US scrum to the sword.
Joe Launchbury – 7
Launchbury was the glue that stuck everything together, incessantly clearing out rucks and offering himself as a runner. A couple handling errors are of no real concern at present, given the wet and windy weather.
George Kruis – 7
Most of what can be said about Launchbury’s showing is likewise true of his partner in the second row. Kruis kept the USA on the backfoot with his tireless work at set-pieces, the 29-year-old orchestrating lineout drives to brilliant effect.
Tom Curry – 8
You start to wonder just how good this kid can be after yet another bustling, all-action display. Ok, there are sterner tests to come in the near future, but a gain of 46 metres from 12 carries demonstrates the go-forward he provides in attack, with Curry’s defence rarely tested against a weak States’ side.
Lewis Ludlam – 8
Though he took his time getting into the flow of the contest, Ludlam eventually proved why Jones was willing to take him to Japan as something of a wild card. His ability to get over the gainline and keep England ticking over could be used to devastating effect if England choose to employ him as an impact substitute.
Billy Vunipola – 6
With only 40 minutes of play-time, this was unlikely to be a standout performance from Billy. Nevertheless, he was valuable in breaking the US resolve, but could do with paying more attention after a few loose plays.
Willi Heinz – 5
Heinz wasn’t exactly woeful at scrumhalf, yet questions will be asked about how suitable he is to the role of backup 9. His kicking didn’t fill viewers with confidence, though quick delivery from the base kept the momentum with England. It was probably just an off-day; the next few weeks will be more telling in that regard.
George Ford – 8
After ever-so-slightly struggling against Tonga in round one, Ford showed his true capabilities in Kobe as he carved the opposition backline open with a variety of passing and incisive running. His opening try was classic Ford, taking the ball to the line before capitalising on indecisiveness in defence.
Joe Cokanasiga – 6
Two well-taken tries mean Cokanasiga will still have enjoyed his first appearance of the tournament. However, his all-round play must be fine-tuned following a generally loose display from the colossal winger.
Piers Francis – 6
Will Hooley may be a bit bemused as to why Francis remained on the pitch after the latter’s dangerous tackle on him in the opening minutes. Still, the centre put that moment behind him, functioning as a hardline option for Ford to utilise.
Jonathan Joseph – 8 (MOTM)
What gorgeous dancing feet Joseph has. Few opponents would be able to cope with the quicksilver stepper in this kind of form, with the Bath back a constant thorn in America’s side. His superb performance can be encapsulated by a delightful dummy and twist through the line, Joseph’s burst teeing up Cokanasiga.
Ruaridh McConnochie – 6
There was scares opportunity to see McConnochie in action, so he remains a bit of an unknown quantity at international level. Nevertheless, he finished his try with aplomb to show he has something to offer on the biggest stage of all.
Elliot Daly – 5
We weren’t given much to shout and scream about by a man who often provides the fireworks. A couple of late runs gave a glimpse of Daly’s turn of speed, but his was still a distinctly underwhelming display.
Jack Singleton – 5
Singleton is difficult to give a rating for, given his late introduction. Nothing too great, nothing too bad, and nothing to really write home about.
Ellis Genge – 7
What a tank England have in their midst. Genge’s barnstorming run after coming on was wonderful to see, the Leicester Tigers bowling ball in full flight as he rampaged through attempted tackles.
Kyle Sinckler – 8
In Genge and Sinckler, Jones has two terrifying forces of nature. The scrum maintained its dominance when the latter was brought off the bench, whilst England’s overall game appeared to get a boost from the arrival of Sinckler.
Courtney Lawes – 6
We’re still waiting on a vintage Lawes hit to light the blue touch paper, but he was nonetheless industrious and positive in his half-hour showing.
Mark Wilson – 7
It must be a joy to play with Wilson, who invariably does the dirty work to allow his teammates the time and space to punish opponents. The Sale backrower did all that you’d expect from him.
Ben Youngs – 7
Immediately after entering the contest, Youngs left his mark, breaking the line off a lineout. That zip was missing when Heinz was at scrumhalf, proving why the Leicester man has the 9 jersey on lockdown.
Owen Farrell – 6
A shoulder to the head would not derail Farrell’s afternoon as he continued to pick holes in the US defence and engineer opportunities for teammates out wide.
Anthony Watson – 8
Watson is simply electric. The States couldn’t cope with the winger once he came on, Watson’s searing pace and tricky feet seeing him beat seven defenders in his cameo at the end of the game.
By Ed Alexander
The total score for the starting XV is 99 compared to 97 versus Tonga. Is that a fair reflection of the step up in performance?
What did you make of England’s performance? What would your team look like for the Argentina match next weekend?