RWC2019: England Player Ratings Versus USA

Elliot Daly

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.

Substitutes

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?

27 thoughts on “RWC2019: England Player Ratings Versus USA

  1. Harsh on Heinz and somewhat generous to Youngs. Yes, a couple of Heinz’ kicks were too deep, but the speed of and accuracy of delivery far exceeded that of Youngs when he came on. Whilst he does snipe better, Youngs’ passing was pretty wayward at times. And when you’ve got Ford at fly-half I’d rather have Heinz’ speedy passing to give Ford more time which brings out the best in him.

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  2. Was Francis’ tackle that bad? I don’t know if there is proper footage but all the photos I’ve seen show no contact being made to the head. Maybe someone could point me in the right direction?
    It’s not a shoulder charge, so there is a low probability that it will be a red. If it is a retrospective ban then I don’t know why. Rose tinted specs and all.

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    1. It was reckless so if it is deemed worthy of a ban i wont have any complaints but I would agree that the contact appeared to be on the raised shoulder of the defender but there may have been a bit of head on head after the initial impact

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    2. I thought it did look like the upper arm made contact with the chin, Francis was wrapping appeared to be wrapping his arms so I don’t think it would be viewed as a shoulder charge, speed of collision (charging in from kick-of) could increase the degree of danger, however, Hooley might have dropped his height from upright a bit, which could be a mitigating factor. Possibly a yellow overall, agree with you that it isn’t a red, but that is all speculation.

        1. Yes. Not in high tackle but in terms of making a tackle
          “A player must not charge or knock down an opponent carrying the ball without attempting to grasp that player”

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  3. i thought Heinz made a very good case to be the starting 9 after that showing.
    Conversely,daly was God awful. I think 5 was generous tbh. Overall, i would agree with the scores apart from those two.
    Front row selection for the next two games needs careful thought. We need ballast and nous against two very physical and proud scrummaging nations. As has now been said a million times, it would have been nice to have a third option at 3 but , on the bright side we may have Mako back to free up Marler. I just hope they don’t rush Mako back into the squad. He has to be fully fit and confident in his body.

    1. Is it just me or are Argentina no longer a ‘proud scrummaging nation’ their scrum seems to have been going backwards (not just metaphorically) for a number of years now and was torn apart by all of their RC rivals in the summer

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  4. Performance? A step up? It was adequate, up to a point, against a team that offered almost zero threat Ed. The fwds did their usual. But did you actually watch the early back line moves? In the 1st the pass went above & behind the rh side winger, thereby killing momentum stone dead. Thereafter a line move down the left went E to W, thereby.. you’ve got it. Think McChonnochie ended running into traffic. For England to threaten later on, they simply have to sharpen up their basic back play. Assuming fitness or otherwise; Team: Marker, Geo, Sinckler, Itoje, Kruis, Underhill, Curry, BV, Youngs, Ford, May, Farrell, Tui, Watson, Daly.
    Markings? Difficult job. Okish I guess, although hash on Heinz, with some others ?ing Launch at present & unsure if Lud is an 8? Anyway, interested to know how you’d mark yrself Ed?

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    1. Hmmm, I do find myself agreeing with Don, about the passing. I was not overly happy with the way the ball was regularly going high, low or behind the ball carrier, stopping the impetus of moves. Basic skills. The kiwis seem to be able to master them so why can’t we?

      However, I thought an improved performance against fresh opposition.

      Not quite sure what our best 15 would look like at the moment. Plenty of competition in the pack, unsure about our back three. Hoping Nowell improves to be able to play soon, as at the moment I’d pair him with Watson and May.

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      1. Good ? Staggy. It’s not really that complicated. The back line moves seem to start out alright from Ford. Dummy runners to distract, just before giving it width. However, ideally the 12, needs to straighten the line before offloading, accurately. The ball should be a yd in front, at waist height for the oncoming wider, recipient. Ensures momentum & pace are maintained. More likely to stress defenders too. Especially so if the blind side wing & or 15 enter the line. Each passer, at some point, should either suddenly slow for a second & or ‘straighten’ inwards to draw their defender/s to them, before passing. Running at the gap between defenders is also good, but again stepping in prior to delivery. Idea is to draw yr opposite & hopefully yr outside colleague’s, opposite too. Aim to create a 2 on 1, 3 on 2. Then you should be in business. All at speed of course with accuracy, timing. Banging on a bit, but as a winger in my youth & having been clattered into touch so often, I thought I’d end up living in the car park, I appreciated the art of creating space. A thing of beauty for me. Not to mention a thing of relief too when my team mates got their lines right. It’s a matter of practicing it until it’s right. In principle it just frustrates me when I see these basic errors, from top pros happening, especially in a WC! Difficult to fathom for me. See what happens next time I guess? Regds.

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    2. While everything you say is valid it is completely ignoring the 4 day turnaround and the fact that it is tier 2 oppo which means you don’t need to be at your best.
      Sure the passing and catching hasn’t been great but i expect it will show an improvement as the opposition improves
      How about focusing on some positives
      We had utter forwards domination, a rock solid set piece, 75% possession and managed to score 7 tries against a well organised defence and could have had more had our basic skills been better

  5. Disagree with the scrumhalf scores. Heinz had a very good game. England attacking ball slowed down when Youngs came on. Not dramatically, but there was a notable change in tempo. England seem to play best at speed, so I would rather have Heinz’s crisper speed of delivery. (That could be for the final 20-30 minutes of course, when England can potentially take advantage of tired opposition defence).

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    1. I was thinking about Youngs from the comment above and how he is noticeably slower in delivery, allowing more time for defence to set so, do they tire so easily to exploit in the last 20. I think the reverse might be best, run them ragged and catch them out of position with the intent to tire them. Then last 20…do it some more 🙂

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  6. WTF seriously 5 for Heinz, watching the same game right?

    England’s performance clearly dipped when Youngs came on, Ed did you take a late hit from and American number 7 before awarding these?

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  7. Mr Ed Alexander

    The Ben Young Fan Club are pleased to announce your order of 100 ‘I Love Ben Youngs’ T-Shits and 200 Ben Youngs Bobble Heads have been dispatched and will be with you in 3-5 working days.

    As a valued customer you are being sent a limited edition Tom Youngs golden Bobble Head.

    Thank you for your custom.

    The Ben Youngs Fanclub.

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  8. The WC is unforgiving Leon. The 4 day turn around? It was a different England team. Yes, as you rightly state, England dominated, so wouldn’t you expect more, rather than could have had more, tries? Maybe my expectations are higher. However, if NZ were passing in similar fashion, I’d be concerned. This is fundamental stuff. The bugs, permutations, time, game management ought to have been ironed out by now. OIOW, before, not during the biggest rugger event in 4 yrs. England are getting the job done, so ok. However, won’t they need to do more than that? Maybe they will pick it up a bit during the next 2. Maybe Eddie’s holding something back. Whatever. All the same, I think I’d prefer that my team were overdogs, rather than underdogs, looking forward. Soon know I guess.

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    1. I have slept since the AB game (watching at 3:00 in sunny ole’ Seattle but…I seem to recall AB’s did have some pretty poor handling throughout the game? “Ah, but they also had some (Typically) brilliant handling also”! Yes, and so did England!
      Just calling out that handling in the tournament to date, by all (except Uruguay, best game to date) has had it’s moments of less than stellar execution.

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      1. Sure you didn’t sleep through part of the AB game too Rhodeo? You know, ‘Sleep less in Seattle’ & all that. No one’s passing game is perfect, but comparing that of England’s with NZ’s, It’s chalk & cheese so far. As already mentioned, it’s not just the accuracy, it’s the timing of, the running lines & the creation of space. Whom’s execution is currently better?

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  9. I agree with Don. The high level of handling and passing errors & butchered chances to puncture the line cannot be ignored. Yes England racked up seven tries in the end (but only four v Tonga) however the phrase chuck enough mud, some will stick springs to mind! They simply won’t get that many chances against the better sides and this could cost them in a tight match! Would be interesting if we could get some stats around tries converted versus butchered chances across the two games?

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  10. Hey Ed how about giving scores out for the Japan Vs Ireland game based on the Heinz score Ireland must be all 9’s and 10’s!

    Seriously though what a game a well done Japan the best team won now lets hope they beat The Sweaties!

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  11. The Japan result is the highlight of the comp for me. I genuinely thought the performance against England in the warm ups was a nit of sleight of hand on the part of Joe Schmidt but Ireland toiled again and that is just an observation, not a veiled suggestion that the Blossoms were lucky. it was their game almost from stat to finish and Ireland are under the pump a bit now.

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  12. Not sure what to make of this performance. We clearly have depth in some areas and two major problems if EJ is going to continue with Youngs at 9 and Daly at 15. Absolutely no idea how Youngs can be rated above Heinz, Care, Spencer or even Wigglesworth. His passing is simply too slow and unreliable. Watching Harrison playing for Tigers this afternoon he is not even the best 9 at Leicester. Daly is a centre, but is both out of sorts and lost as a full back. I would start with Marler, George and Cole against both France and Argentina to gring them down for fifty minutes, dependent on whether Mako is fit. Genge, C-D and Sinkler are an ideal impact front row from the bench. I´d have Launchbury and Kruis as second row starters with Itoje at 6, Underhill or Curry at 7 and Billy at 8. Can´t understand why Launch came in for so much criticism. He dropped the ball about three times, one of which was when he got man and ball together and another after the whistle had blown. Apart from that he was in tremendous form, carrying as first receiver, tackling, organising around the ruck and being a bloody nuisance everywhere. I am aware of the reluctance to play one of our four class second rows in the back row, but with Itoje there and Lawes on the bench there is height, power and carrying ability in spades. I´d have Heinz at 9 in the absence of a class scrum half. Ford, Farrell and Tuilagi in midfield and a back three of May, Watson and Nowell (if fit). Bench would be Genge, C-D, Sinkler, Lawes, Curry, Cockonasinga and Joseph, with Youngs reluctantly as reserve scrum half, though I´d be tempted to use Ford as cover for scrum half and leave him out completely, which EJ is never going to do. There is no doubt that there is competition for quite a few spots, which is a good thing, but hopefully by the group stages we will have a bit more idea of what the best combination actually is.

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