England’s Six Nations tournament finished (?) in bizarre fashion on Saturday evening. Without much of the ball, England seemed to have control of the game throughout. A late flurry from Wales showed what they could have done, but the scoreboard ultimately flattered the visitors somewhat. Below are the England player ratings.
15. Henry Slade – 8
I have decided to rate England’s rejigged back 3 as May only lasted a few minutes. Slade equipped himself very well on his return to the team. Positioned himself well defensively, linked play well when given the chance and made some important interventions when Wales looked like scoring.
14. Anthony Watson – 8
Has that ability to leave defenders stranded when it looks like nothing is on. In the opening exchanges, he tormented the Welsh defence out wide and took his try superbly when still having a lot to do. His threat faded as the game went on though.
13. Manu Tuilagi – 7
A tough one to rate. A red card would normally destroy your score, but it happened so late and didn’t affect the result (although did make the score line look tighter than the game was). Whilst it was probably deserved by the letter of the law, apart from leading with his arms, I’m not sure what he could have done. Until that moment, he’d carried well and made consistent ground without breaking free and had been the lynchpin in defence, crashing into tackles to stop Welsh momentum before they could go wide.
12. Owen Farrell – 6
I was glad that the referee put him in his place early on as he gave away a childish penalty. It took him a while to shake that off. Superb kicking off the tee and led the defence very well. I’m struggling to see what he is bringing to the attack at the moment – seems the least threatening of the backs.
11. Elliot Daly – 6
A couple of slipped tackles undermine his cause a bit. Took his try well and was mostly accomplished in the air. As with a lot of people, I’m still unsure on his best position. His running lines and ball handling are wasted on the wing as he’s not able to get involved in the same way.
10. George Ford – 8
Two assists under considerable pressure. He seems confident whenever he is on the ball. At times, it seems he can over-kick, but the quality of the kicks is generally consistent and puts England in the right areas. If he kept the ball in hand even a little more, I’m sure he’d unlock the defence and create even more tries though.
9. Ben Youngs – 9
After the France game, I said that it was perhaps time for a change. The last two games have shown exactly why not. Box kicking was either excellent or poor, but every other facet of his game was outstanding on Saturday. He kept the defence honest around the fringes and found some change there. His inside pass for Watson’s try was massively under-appreciated as well. Distribution and choice of runner was top all game as well.
1. Joe Marler – 8
Had his opposite number on toast in the scrum all game – an area that helped England exert dominance in the game. Defended well around the fringes. Looked to get his hands on the balls a bit more than usual.
2. Jamie George – 6
Hit his men in the line out (although not always as cleanly as normal) and was part of a scrum that never took a backwards step. Perhaps the most anonymous of the England pack aside from that.
3. Kyle Sinckler – 8
Much cooler than last time these two sides met. As with Marler, he pushed the scrum forwards every time. He is getting in those positions to make those explosive carries and is also looking to add in that extra pass like he was doing a few months ago.
4. Maro Itoje – 8
A nuisance in the maul defence that undid the Welsh in a few occasions. Found himself at the centre of more or less everything. Tracked the play quite well and was on hand when England made a break.
5. George Kruis – 8
Was this his last game in an England shirt? He had a typically Kruis performance to be remembered by. Ruthlessly efficient, carried uncompromisingly, set the tone for work-rate. He’s clearly working on his kicking to boot.
6. Courtney Lawes – 7
The back row is an area that is still open to lots of debate for England. However, Lawes looks to have made himself undroppable in the last couple of games, whether I’d be at 6 or in the second row. He tackles like a torpedo and is the the face of an attacker every time. Perhaps not as prominent in his carrying as his last outing.
7. Mark Wilson – 9
A product of a bygone era. A proper nugget of a flanker straight out of the 1990s. You may not always notice what he does, but you always notice him there. His tackle count was very high and most of them put England on the front foot. Makes the hard yards when called upon. Slowed down Welsh ball. A very good return to the team indeed.
8. Tom Curry – 8
Perhaps having Wilson there allowed him to chop and change between the role of an 8 and that of a 7 more easily, but it was probably his best game yet in the position. A menace for attackers – due to his pace and power, he is always crashing into them before they’ve had time to think.
Bench – 5
Apart from Slade, who I’ve rated separately, the bench wasn’t as impactful as usual. England got progressively worse for every change and the momentum that they’d built slowly disappeared. The only two that stopped this being a 4 were Launchbury and Ewels as they helped repel the mauls late on.
What do you think? Do you agree with the scores? How would you rate England’s tournament (so far)?