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England Player Ratings V South Africa

Who excelled for England and who needs a better performance next week against Fiji? We rate all 23 players.

1) Mako Vunipola

Brought his Saracens form back to the international stage and was a real threat in attack as well as solid in defence. Worringly, the loosehead struggled against South African tighthead and clubmate Vincent Koch at scrum time, which saw penalties go the opposition’s way, particularly in the first half. 7

2) Dylan Hartley

Reliable at the set piece and a decent shift in terms of carrying and defence, the Northampton Saints hooker is perhaps living on his reputation as an outstanding leader rather than his current playing form. Coach Eddie Jones may be tempted to look at youngsters Jamie George or Tommy Taylor against Fiji, particularly with Hartley leaving the field with 25 minutes to go. 6

3) Dan Cole

Always a threat at the breakdown and won penalties for his team at crucial moments, Cole nevertheless struggled against the scrummaging power of The Beast and his lack of consistency at the set piece is always a concern. 6

4) Joe Launchbury

Without Maro Itoje, you could forgive most England fans for having concerns about their team’s performance beforehand, but those worries were abated with an impressive outing from Wasps lock Launchbury. His excellent work at the lineout, carrying around the park, work at the breakdown and in defence ensured his team were on the front foot for most of the game. 8

5) Courtney Lawes

Lawes was once being hyped by the press in the same manner as the media are currently doing with both Itoje and Kruis, but on his 50th cap the Northampton Saints man did a lot of excellent work with his carrying and was impressive in defence as usual. A few lapses in concentration could have been costly to his team at times, but Lawes’ pace in chasing the ball to score from Elliot Daly’s kick meant the second row was rewarded with his first ever England try. 7

6) Chris Robshaw

In the same diligent and dignified manner as England great Richard Hill, Robshaw has found his international calling as one of the great blindsides in test rugby. His tackle on Rudy Paige ensuring a turnover encapsulates what the Harlequins flanker brings to the England team and whether through going forward or in defence Robshaw was once again at the heart of everything good about the men in white today. 9

7) Tom Wood

A first start in the Eddie Jones era, Wood was solid although not spectacular. The Saintsman put in a solid shift throughout the match without really excelling in any area, which perhaps he can be forgiven for given Wood was playing at seven, a position he has grown unfamiliar with given the rise of Teimana Harrison at Franklins Gardens. 6

8) Billy Vunipola

You can start to take the giant number eight for granted in what he brings to this England side, but Vunipola was once again tremendous for the men in white, even against the once much-vaunted defence of the Springboks. The proud rugby nation of South Africa will be aghast at how easily Vunipola swatted aside several defenders with each carry, freeing up much needed space for Ben Youngs and the back division to take full advantage.  9


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9) Ben Youngs

Youngs is so often a ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ player: sometimes brilliant, at other times distinctly average. Today was certainly more of the former, with the scrum half’s box kicking proving an effective weapon, particularly with speedsters Marland Yarde and Jonny May pressurising the South Africans with their chasing. Youngs’ beautiful dummied pass in the second half and his accompanying great awareness set up Ford for his try. The identical move Youngs used for Farrell’s try was embarrassing for the Springboks. 8

10) George Ford

Ford is constantly under scrutiny from the media, but despite a missed drop kick that would have more importance in a knock-out match or Championship decider, he supported Youngs well for his try and it was his awareness and clever play to set up Jonny May for the first try. Not his finest performance for his country, but by no means his worst. 6

11) Jonny May

With an excellent finish for the first try, May found his way back into test rugby very quickly. The Gloucester speedster was constantly looking for walk and coming off his wing to try and engineer something from nothing. His kickchasing was strong at times and put the Springboks under pressure under the high ball. 7

12) Owen Farrell

Another reliable performance from England’s lynchpin, who despite one waywards kick was fierce in defence, clever in attack and accurate with his game management throughout. His try was the icing on the cake in another consistent and comfortable outing for the fly-half-turned-inside-centre. 7

13) Elliot Daly

Clever decoy work from Daly set up May for his first try, and it was his awareness of space that led to Courtney Lawes’ eventual try. Moreover, Daly showed with his fantastic long distance kick that he brings another dimension to England’s game. 8

14) Marland Yarde

Many England supporters were angry that Yarde was selected over the in-form Bath winger Semesa Rokoduguni, and the Harlequins man had a sturdy game for the men in white, but hardly set the world alight. His kickchasing, like May’s, was at times effective, but despite looking for work off his wing found few opportunities to use his pace and power. 6

15) Mike Brown

Age seems to be catching up with England’s most capped fullback, and whilst Mr Angry was once again reliable under the high ball and rarely put a foot wrong, he seemed to slip on the few occasions when he had a chance to counter-attack. Calls will grow for Alex Goode or Mike Haley to be given a shot against Fiji. 6

Bench: Joe Marler brought some much-needed energy at scrum time and Jamie George was his usual lively self against a tiring Springboks side, but by the last 10 minutes the game was won. 6

Paul Wassell, Pundit Arena

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Author: The PA Team

This article was written by a member of The PA Team.