Six Nations 2019: England Player Ratings Versus Ireland

Elliot Daly

On a whirlwind opening weekend of Six Nations rugby, it was England who brought the storm to Dublin. As the frost bit in a stifling Aviva Stadium, Eddie Jones’ men suffocated and subdued their hosts, throwing the tournament wide-open in the process. The pack were domineering, providing a stable platform for the backs to execute their shrewd game-plan brilliantly – but how did each individual perform?

Mako Vunipola – 9 (MOTM)
On his return to the International scene, Mako was immense. He was exquisite in every aspect of the game, both carrying and defending with a vigour and purpose that never faded. He was the thorn in the Irish side, completing 27 tackles and disturbing the breakdown in a display that spanned an astounding 75-minutes, something almost-unheard of for a loosehead. Matching Tadgh Furlong at scrum-time characterised the strength of England’s forwards as a whole. He was unlucky to see a try chalked-off, though I doubt he will care too much.

Jamie George – 6.5
Another front-rower who impressed with the length of his shift on Saturday. The accuracy of George’s throws ensured the lineout functioned well, he was solid in defence, and was energetic in his general play. Dylan Hartley will struggle to displace such a reliable performer.

Kyle Sinckler – 6
As ever, Sinckler was a willing ball-carrier as he barrelled into the Irish defensive line. Giving nothing away to the experienced Cian Healy in the scrums, he has shown himself to be more than capable against some of the world’s best in this area of the game.

Maro Itoje – 7
Does Itoje ever disappoint? He was typically adept at the breakdown, pivotal in the lineout, and exceptionally mobile; Jones will be praying that his knee-injury was only minor. His passion inspires the entire England team and he will be sorely missed in the engine room should his substitution prove to be more than a mere precaution.

George Kruis – 6
A classy operator and a diligent worker; Kruis was dependable throughout the contest. He didn’t offer much in the way of attack, but nonetheless held his own during a bruising battle between the forwards.

Mark Wilson – 8
Much like the man he is covering for at blindside, Wilson’s work is crucial, yet unsung. 27 tackles typifies what the Newcastle Falcon brings to the team, axing down oncoming oaks with ruthless consistency and determination. In a game where intensity and power reigned supreme, Wilson brought both in abundance. Chris Robshaw beware.

Tom Curry – 6
His sin-binning could have allowed the Irish to establish themselves more firmly in the game; fortunately for Curry, this was not the case. On his return to the action he looked to make amends, showing tenacity and endeavour across the park. Jones will be impressed by the reaction and hope that the flanker uses the experience as a learning-curve.

Billy Vunipola – 7
Billy, as you might expect, made the most metres out of any of England’s forwards. Ireland struggled to swallow the deadly cocktail of clout and dynamism that he offers, having to commit multiple defenders to stop him. His carrying was essential for England to implement their game-plan and he duly delivered.

Ben Youngs – 9
Speed off the base, astute decision-making, precision-passing; this was vintage Ben Youngs. Moreover, the scrum-half outperformed counterpart Conor Murray when it came to the selection and execution of his kicks. With this being the area in which the latter excels – and the foundation for Ireland’s approach – Youngs ousting Murray was both remarkable and pivotal.

Owen Farrell – 7
Farrell was almost infallible in open play and with his organisation of the backline. Creating the opening-score with a mesmerising pass helped set the tone for England, whilst he pinned Ireland back with his kicking out-of-hand. The captain was uncharacteristically wayward off-the-tee, however, and will want to bring back his usual reliability in this respect. In a tighter affair, his misses could have proved costly.

Jonny May – 8.5
Despite crossing the whitewash early on, May’s brilliance came without the ball-in-hand. With Jones opting for a strategy that centred on kicking, the winger’s electric pace was invaluable. His chase and aerial ability were unmatched, demonstrating why he has become a fixture in this England backline. A deft chip allowed Henry Slade in to end the contest; all facets of May’s play were on-point.

Manu Tuilagi – 6.5
The long-awaited return of this behemoth finally came and he offered precisely what England supporters and staff alike would have hoped for. He was a battering-ram, a cannon, and the entire cavalry, too. The threat he posed as a crash-ball option continuously drew the attention of Ireland’s Bundee Aki and Garry Ringrose, both having to commit themselves fully to shackle Tuilagi. His tackling was equally bullish and though his game didn’t extend far beyond utilising this power, it didn’t need to.

Henry Slade – 8
His display began modestly, going about his business readily and ably. Up until the final quarter, Slade had primarily shown sturdiness in the backline and secure distribution. Thereafter, he flourished; his delightful pass to May and ensuing kick-chase made him both the creator and finisher of the game’s outstanding try, which he swiftly followed-up with a sharp interception score. In both of these, he exhibited dexterity and nous, qualities he will look to replicate in the coming games. Slade was fortunate that a fumble on his own 22-metre wasn’t capitalised on by Johnny Sexton, but the incident certainly didn’t tarnish this accomplished performance.

Jack Nowell – 7.5
In Dublin, it became clear what Jones had meant when suggesting Nowell would function like a ninth forward. In the first-half, particularly, he was industrious, bustling into heavy traffic and unsettling the Irish breakdown. His endeavour led to a crucial second score for the Roses and, despite having a quieter end to the match, he thwarted the lethal Jacob Stockdale throughout. Perhaps Nowell acting as an auxiliary forward was what allowed the pack to ceaselessly exert their dominance.

Elliot Daly – 6.5
Daly played to his strengths on Saturday, offering incisive running-lines and an adept array of kicking to keep Ireland guessing. He remains unproven as an International fullback – Mike Brown would have dealt with some high-balls better – but is undeniably capable of adjusting to the position with time. The all-rounder was instrumental in England retaking the lead just before the break.


Harry Williams – 6
An extremely distinctive individual, Williams had only a brief spell on the pitch to make his mark. He kept the scrum on lockdown and helped maintain the forwards’ authority. A reliable replacement.

Courtney Lawes – 7
One agile lock goes off and another takes his place. Lawes added to his showreel of bludgeoning hits, with his fierce defence halting any Irish momentum. A respectable 9 tackles proves his worth as a defender; his presence would make any ball-carrier think twice.

Nathan Hughes – 5
Asked to fulfil the role of lock, Hughes was competent in an unfamiliar position. More time would have allowed him to showcase his full capabilities in the loose. Hughes is a sound option off the bench, but remains unlikely to challenge for a starting berth.

Luke Cowan-Dickie – n/a
Ellis Genge – n/a
Dan Robson – n/a
George Ford – n/a
Chris Ashton – n/a

21 thoughts on “Six Nations 2019: England Player Ratings Versus Ireland

  1. If 6 is the bear minimum expected I think you have underscored all those on 6 or 6.5 by one or half a mark as everyone who started stepped up and put in a shift.

    Curry deserved the 6 for carelessness that led to his yellow, docking him a point.

    1. I don’t think he should be down marked too much – there aren’t many people I know who think it was a valid yellow! Aside from that incident which I think was more poor officiating than anything, I thought he had a great game. Definitely 7 (after any marking down).

      I’d also add half marks for Tuilagi and Kruis, but I can understand the author not wanting to give out too many high scores as it takes away from those that stood out.

      In contrast I thought Youngs played well but not sure I’d have him on the same score as Mako – maybe 1/5 or 1 point off of there for me, as still think the delivery can be a fraction slow

      1. The Yellow Card was harsh. Some refs would not even have penalised it. Not really like Garces, he is one of the last to get his cards out.

        1. Really pleased to see it’s not just me that thought the yellow was harsh. It looked bad at the time but the replay showed a tackle at chest height leading with the arm not the shoulder. Was it late or was Curry committed on Earls? Borderline. Later tackles on the kicker seemed similarly borderline but no penalty given.

  2. Thought that the front row were immense as I thought that Ireland held the edge there. Agree that Youngs mark is too high. He had a great game but his pass is still pedestrian at times. Don’t think anyone had a poor game.

  3. So buzzing still about this performance. Considering what was stacked against England being away in Dublin, facing an Irish side on a roll both internationally and domestically, a 10,12,13 combo untested at this level, a 20 yr old openside, recently back from injury and questions over Daly @ 15. To win in the fashion they did, executing both tactical and sheer brute game plan should be applauded. Well done lads, simply well done. 9 for everyone!

  4. At last we have a decent back row Wilson Curry and Billy were superb outplayed the best back row in world rugby in there own backyard magnificent well done lads.
    Special mention to Slade and Daly I have been watching them for years knew they were class but never quite nailed it for England they did Saturday.

    1. Great balance to Wilson, Curry and Billy. Underhill and Curry are pretty interchangeable, both very good, but Wilson and Billy stand out as the best options at 6 and 8.

    2. Stevegolf, you should stick to driving VW’s. If the Irish b/row are the best in the world (how many times do I ‘hear’ these unsubstantiated claims?), how come their team are No. 2? If the England team outplayed them, how come they only had 40% possession & 47% territory? Subjective drivel.

      1. Don P, I think that might be unfair. I reckon you can have the best back row in world rugby and still be no. 2 overall. With O’Brien in it, there is definitely an argument for saying it’s better than the AB back row. Not definite, just an opinion – it would be impossible to call it either way I’d say.
        I’ve lost count of the number of times the AB beat England but with less territory and less possession. Even in the WC in 99 England had 60% possession and lost badly. You can certainly outplay a team even if you have less possession. And I think England did this on Saturday.

        1. Hendog, I’ve already stated this elsewhere. NZ can play from deep & aren’t territory obsessed. They believe that they can & they do, play what’s before them from where ever they are on the field. The NH tend not to do this & go for territory as an end in itself. However, as the Eng, Ire game was in the NH, territory (& esp possession) are therefore deemed more important, then there can be an argument to state that the Irish b/row, fwds were dominant overall. Stats showed this. Therefore, there may be other reasons for England’s win; e.g., ‘D’. Whether the Irish b/row are the best in world rugby is surely debatable. Other factors such as injury can come into play as alluded to here by England supporters about their own b/row. NZ too have had their (whole) b/row (& 5 of 8 fwds) disrupted over the past yr, so indeed it’s almost a spurious ? as to whose b/row is dominant. In the end though it’s what happens on the day that counts.

  5. No way Young s deserves a 9. Competent but his distribution is still too slow. Hope Robson gets a go this week.

  6. Having a re-watch and I’m fairly sure Mako’s hand was always under the ball for Healy’s try, so give him a 10!

  7. “Much like the man he is covering for at blindside, Wilson’s work is crucial, yet unsung”

    I dont think Wilson is covering for anybody. Right now he is our best 6 and should be inked into every teamsheet from here on in.

    And i cannot see how Youngs, who was a mix of good, bad and indifferent, could be considered our best back.

    1. That unsung work from Wilson amounted to 27 tackles and involvement in 42 breakdowns. Add in a few carries and couple of line out wins and you have the kind of input any coach would treasure.
      Mako also made 27 tackles. A phenomenal effort.

  8. Personally I think Wilson is streets ahead of Robshaw. He’s faster round the park, a better ball carrier and more versatile. He proved this when he played 8 inn the Autumn. Robshaw at 8 is a scary thought, but if Billy is ever out of contention, I think I would rather see Wilson there than Hughes as he is too one dimensional (and upright!).

    I thought the whole team were outstanding but the one player who really stodd out for me was Mako. His work rate is unbelievable!! I wonder if you could ply him at 6!? The guy is a machine!!!!

  9. Disagree that Wilson is more versatile than Robshaw – other than he is better cover for 8.
    Robshaw is a clever rugby player and a very good passer and off-loader of the ball (anyone remember the try he created for Watson a couple of years back?). There was a reason he was often used as a distributor by both England and Quins.I’ve yet to see anything similar from Wilson.
    For me Robshaw at his best is better than Wilson – although we have perhaps to see Wilson at his very best. Having said that, the 6 berth is Wilson’s to lose at the moment. Despite his great performance in the last test in SA, all the rugby Robshaw’s played has definitely taken his toll and we don’t know if he can hit the same heights consistently.
    With the likes of Wilson (an almost like for like replacement) plus Shields (with his lineout ability able to cover lock as well) and Clifford (with his speed) hanging around the squad, there seems little place for Robshaw short of EJ wanting him there for experience or him stringing together a run of superb games for Quins.
    Still, nice to have so much choice on the flanks. When all fit we have:
    Plus the unchosen likes of the other Curry, Armand and Ewers and players like Hill, Willis, Dombrandt, etc coming up

    1. I have been a fan of Robshaws for a long time even when he wasn’t the most popular international, but in my opinion his time has gone. Age and all of those collisions have slowed him too much for the international stage. Wilson first choice and then Shields.

    2. Right now England need Wilson’s Tackles and Rucking more than they need Robshaw’s Passing. we have plenty of other players who can create opportunities but Englands breakdown worjk has improved massively since Wilson’s inclusion

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