The worst performance by England under coach Eddie Jones saw the side do just enough to get over the finish line and earn an historic fifteenth consecutive victory, but the impact of the bench in the second half will certainly provide Jones with some selection headaches for next week’s match against Wales in Cardiff.
1) Joe Marler 5
This was a real chance for Mako Vunipola’s understudy Marler to show what he can do against a powerful French front row. However, the Harlequins prop was solid enough at the set piece: neither dominant nor dominated. England really missed Vunipola’s brilliant hands and ability in the loose today at times, although given how the team were strangled of possession for most of the game one questions what impact even he might have had.
2) Dylan Hartley 3
Captain Hartley was rightly replaced with twenty minutes to go in the second half and question marks were hanging over the Saints hooker with the player lacking match fitness due to yet another ban earlier in the season that has only just seen him return to playing. Unfortunately, Hartley looked out of sorts and for the first time under Eddie Jones the team looked like they were lacking in a clear direction. Will Jamie George earn his first England start sooner rather than later?
3) Dan Cole 5
Cole was solid at the scrum and did his work at the breakdown and was one of the more consistent players in the pack tonight and was up against a significant challenge in the French front row this evening.
4) Joe Launchbury 5
Normally an omnipresent force on the pitch, Launchbury seemed lacklustre tonight against a French pack that hit top form and played to its strengths throughout the match. He put in his tackles but this certainly wasn’t the Wasps’ second row’s finest performance in a white shirt by a long shot.
5) Courtney Lawes 6
This was a typical Lawes performance with the athletic lock putting in some huge hits at just the right times and his defence saved England’s blushes on many occasions. The Northampton second row should keep his place if Jones opts to move Itoje back to his place at four rather than six.
6) Maro Itoje 5
An unusually quiet performance from the young England tyro, but he won crucial turnovers when France were looking dangerous in England’s half. Given this was his first start at blindside, and having only played there on a handful of occasions for his club previously, Itoje can be forgiven for not being his usually potent self, but Jones may be tempted to move the Saracens man back to his usual position in the second row next week, particularly when Wood and Haskell formed a more effective flanking partnership in the second half.
7) Tom Wood 6
Wood was as metronomic as ever: he put in his hits, made effective carriers and was at times disruptive at the breakdown, but the back row picked this evening lacked the balance of previous games. The first half really highlighted how much England missed the presence of Chris Robshaw, but Wood formed a more effective partnership with Haskell in the last 20.
8) Nathan Hughes 7
Another decent performance from the Wasps number eight, who made some impact with his carrying in the first half despite England lacking ball and territory for most of the first 60. Hughes does the simple things very well and that was exactly what was needed in a game where England were being suffocated by an aggressive French outfit.
9) Ben Youngs 4
A sloppy performance from the Leicester man behind a stuttering pack, and the introduction of Danny Care in the second half brought some much needed pace and a more clinical edge to England’s attacking game when it was needed most. Youngs’ box kicking did not let him down, but there are still significant question marks over his distribution. One nice interchange with Daly was the highlight of his game tonight.
10) George Ford 6
Considering the mammoth size of France’s team this evening, Ford put in a quite remarkable defensive effort. He made a couple of mistakes, but it was Ford’s level headed game management that presented England with their first opportunity to score via Farrell’s break and pass to Daly in the corner. France’s dominance up front meant this wasn’t really a chance for Ford to show off the full array of his attacking skills and the Farrell/Te’o partnership at 10/12 late in the game was the direct running and abrasiveness that the side needed to finish France off.
11) Jonny May 6
A silly challenge early in the game saw the Gloucester winger sin binned, but May put in another tireless defensive effort and tried to engineer chances out of nothing. A solid effort throughout, but Nowell’s impact later in the game could see the player axed for Cardiff.
12) Owen Farrell 7
How many backs can stop Louis Picamoles dead in his tracks? Not many, but Farrell was aggressive, confrontational and accurate. He kept his team in the game and genuinely may be the right man to take over from Hartley as England captain soon.
13) Jonathan Joseph 5
Joseph put France under pressure with his kick chase and put in a decent shift in defence once more, but this was not really a game for the Bath centre to show off his attacking game when England struggled to get a foothold on the game for 60 minutes.
14) Elliot Daly 7
Most of England’s chances came from the superb rugby brain of Daly and he was unfortunate not to score in the corner. Is Sir Clive Woodward right that an out-and-out winger might have finished that opportunity in the corner? Regardless, Daly’s fantastic long distance kick kept the side in the game.
15) Mike Brown 6
The Harlequins fullback saw a lot of ball in the match, but he is starting to lose his pace and France’s excellent defence stopped him making any gains going forward. He was solid rather than spectacular today and will most likely continue at 15 for next week.
Matt Mullan (7) was quite impressive both at scrum time and around the park when he came on and may give Eddie Jones some food for thought before choosing his side next week. Saracens hooker Jamie George (7) looked every part the international hooker in his performance and James Haskell (8) added some much needed power and ballast.
Danny Care (7) added pace to England’s attacking game and may be in with a shout to start next weekend, whilst Ben Te’o (8) was England’s saviour tonight. Jack Nowell (7) showed that his elusiveness could see the England backline rejigged before facing Wales.
Paul Wassell, Pundit Arena