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England player ratings | The 30 players capped in Six Nations 2023

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

England player ratings – Six Nations 2023: Leaving Aviva Stadium on Saturday night, the dominant takeaway was that Steve Borthwick is so far failing in his short time in charge. Two wins from five in any year is unacceptable for a union as powerful and rich as the RFU, but poor leadership at boardroom level has allowed that meagre return to become the norm for the third season in succession and the fourth in six years.

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England became strangled by inconsistency under Eddie Jones and after the chorus of Twickenham boos that greeted the final whistle in November versus the Springboks finally prodded the RFU into action, the expectation was that a dead cat bounce would surely materialise in the championship under new head coach Borthwick.

It didn’t. Rather than restore dented confidence in a raft of generally good Test players, England were shackled by confusion about how they were expected to play under their rookie Test-level boss, and rather than grasp the nettle that was an underperforming pack and ringing the changes there, it was the backline where Borthwick opted to ploddingly rearrange the chairs.

Video Spacer

Owen Farrell gives his opinion on England’s red card against Ireland in the Six Nations

Video Spacer

Owen Farrell gives his opinion on England’s red card against Ireland in the Six Nations

Of the 30 players capped on his maiden five-game watch (14 backs and 16 forwards), 12 of his 22 starters were in the backs and only two – young guns Freddie Steward and Jack van Poortvliet – started every game.

It was backs division tinkering taken to an extreme level, particularly the in-out-in-out treatment of Marcus Smith, and it was in stark contrast to the multiple-chances approach with the more problematic pack. Six forwards started all five games, with Maro Itoje and Lewis Ludlam playing all 400 minutes, and another pack member was chosen as a starter in four games, blind loyalty that wasn’t repaid by consistency in performance and results.

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Good moments were fleeting, with perhaps the best being the belligerent try-scoring riposte in Cardiff through Kyle Sinckler just minutes after Max Malins cheaply surrendered his team’s half-time lead with his ill-advised pass intercepted by Louis Rees-Zammit. There was also some chutzpah in Dublin, England responding to their red card by scoring the game’s next points to leave them trailing by just a single point until the game was clinically taken away from them by Ireland’s last quarter flourish.

It’s interesting that both those moments took place away from home, with Twickenham continuing to be a place where England simply are not enjoying home comforts. This London flakiness must change for next year’s championship. In the meantime, here are the RugbyPass England player ratings for all 30 players capped in this year’s Six Nations:

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FULL-BACK (1)
Freddie Steward – 4
5 starts (360 mins): Was all set to receive a far higher rating for being consistently decent until he ruined his report card with his silly red card in Dublin. We hear the debate about the incident being a rugby collision, but the fact of the matter was that he turned his body into the contact, exposing his elbow and inviting the referee to reach the decision that resulted. It left him with a devastating second-season lesson to learn.

WINGERS (4)
Max Malins – 4.5
4 starts (294 mins): Started like an express train with two tries versus Scotland but then petered out, being at fault for the intercept Wales try and getting swept away by the French which resulted in him getting dropped for round five.

Anthony Watson – 6.5
3 starts, 1 run as sub (256 mins): Looked rusty in his opening round cameo and was dropped from the 23. Rebounded with a flourish, though, scoring in Wales and deserving his start in the final two rounds.

Ollie Hassell-Collins – 3
2 starts (118 mins): The debut-making rookie was picked in the opening round matches but failed to make an impression and a knee knock set him back further.

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Henry Arundell – 4
1 start, 3 runs as sub (108 mins): Highlighted his promise with a late try against Italy but didn’t shine when handed a first career against Ireland, failing to ask questions when on the ball.

CENTRES (4)
Henry Slade – 6
4 starts (278 mins): Three acceptable defensively-minded performances and one – against the French – that was a horror to forget. Attacking threat was too limited.

Ollie Lawrence – 6.5
3 starts, 1 run as sub (225 mins): Initially provided evidence why Borthwick was right to abandon the failed 10/12 Smith/Owen Farrell combo, a highlight being the win-clinching try in Wales, but floundered against the French and left nursing a damaged hamstring.

Joe Marchant – 3
1 start, 1 run as sub (96 mins): Baffling how Borthwick backed this France-bound club player as a round one starter. He was then excluded until a round five bench cameo, his arrival coinciding with England fading.

Manu Tuilagi – 4.5
1 start (80 mins): His round one axing was headline news and his subsequent club suspension meant it wasn’t until Lawrence’s injury that he was recalled. Defensively had a presence in Dublin but England also needed an attacking edge and he didn’t have it.

OUT-HALVES (2)
Owen Farrell – 6
4 starts, 1 run as sub (354 mins): Continued to have his detractors, especially for his ineffective No12 appearance against the Scots. Wasn’t a hugely creative No10 either and there were too many missed tackles (15 overall), but let’s give him credit for his reaction to getting the round four chop, fixing his issues off the kicking tee and defiantly exhibiting stiff upper lip leadership against the odds in Dublin. The question privately is how damaged his captaincy relationship now is with Borthwick.

Marcus Smith – 4.5
2 starts, 2 runs as sub, 1 game unused rep (169 mins): Had his head wrecked by Borthwick faffing about, axing him for Italy, giving him a token 30 seconds off the bench in Wales and then, out of the blue, recalling him for France before axing him again and leaving him unused in Ireland. His talent is being wasted with all that carry-on.

SCRUM-HALVES (3)
Jack van Poortvliet – 4.5
5 starts (306 mins): Given every opportunity to make a real name for himself but he didn’t convincingly deliver. Kicked way too much under instruction rather than having a snipe and was error-prone with 10 handling errors and eight turnovers conceded. A curiosity was how he played 72 and 70 minutes away from home but was a 58, 60 and 46-minute casualty at Twickenham with the home fans feeling restless.

Alex Mitchell – 3.5
4 runs as sub (72 mins): Should have started at least once to see what he had to offer compared to van Poortvliet. Seemed to be a higher-tempo player than his rival with a few of his second-half cameos.

Ben Youngs – 1
1 run as sub (22 mins): This campaign looked like the sad end for the record caps holder, his only appearance coming in the endgame where Scotland out-thought England down the finishing straight.

LOOSEHEADS (2)
Ellie Genge – 6.5
5 starts (297 mins): There was a lot to enthuse, particularly his healthy ball-carrying, scrummaging engine around the park. What grated though was his whiny captaincy against France and 13 missed tackles across the tournament.

Mako Vunipola – 4.5
5 runs as sub (103 mins): Has been left in no doubt about his very secondary place in the pecking order and it seems no matter what he does when he gets a chance, it won’t alter that positioning. Look at how he thrived for 26 crucial minutes against Wales but then, with France running riot, only merited an immaterial 15-minute run.

HOOKERS (2)
Jamie George – 5.5
5 starts (393 mins): Just seven minutes short of the full house and that overdependence due to the absence of Luke Cowan-Dickie was concerning as he needs competition to bring the very best out of him. He did score twice and registered a 55-high tackle count, but this wasn’t George at the very top of his game.

Jack Walker – 1
3 runs as sub, 2 game unused rep (27 mins): A total passenger due to the way Borthwick deployed him, with less than a minute in Cardiff and two unused sub situations. Even when given 19 minutes versus the French, it was as an emergency back-rower due to injury.

TIGHTHEADS (2)
Kyle Sinckler – 6
5 starts (306 mins): He can’t take solace from missing nine tackles and conceding a half-dozen penalties, but he exhibited hearty ticker, looking to carry regularly in the tight – which was rewarded by his important score in Wales – and generally keeping his end at the scrum.

Dan Cole – 1
5 runs as sub (94 mins): Had way more time than sub hooker Walker but he was essentially another passenger. There was a scrum penalty win in his first minute of Test rugby since 2019 when sent on against the Scots but didn’t make an impression after that.

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SECOND ROWS (4)
Maro Itoje – 5.5
5 starts (400 mins): Generally looked a shadow at times compared to the world-class player we know he is. There were glimpses of his best in fleeting moments against the Welsh and the Irish and he finished the campaign with four turnovers won but otherwise, he didn’t really impress – 11 missed tackles, five penalties conceded and zero lineout steals highlighting his below-par presence.

Ollie Chessum – 6.5
4 starts (320 mins): We like this fella’s potential and his attitude. He outshone Itoje with his work rate which included 142 metres from 25 carries. He was also England’s main lineout fetcher with 18 catches. Real pity that last Tuesday he became the latest in the line of infamous training ground injuries, the five- to six-month layoff leaving him with a race to be fit for the Rugby World Cup.

Nick Isiekwe – 3
3 runs as sub (44 mins): Made far less of a good impression in this championship than a year ago when the wind was more in his sails under Jones.

David Ribbans – 3.5
1 start, 1 run as sub (75 mins): Another in the Marchant category, handed a start even though he soon won’t be available for Test duty due to joining a French club. Got a rare start against the Irish but Borthwick didn’t seem to really fancy him. If he did, he would have been thrown in versus France for much longer than five token minutes.

BACK ROWS (6)
Lewis Ludlam – 5.5
5 starts (400 mins): Played every minute which is a great testament to how he has rebounded from previous selection rejections under Jones. Encouraging energy levels epitomised by work on both sides of the ball, making 195 metres from 30 carries and also putting in 67 tackles. Was schooled by the French, though, the reason for him getting marked down being three early penalties conceded and a crucial lineout take botched in that round four game.

Alex Dombrandt – 3
5 starts (330 mins): Flunked his big chance to put in a statement campaign before Zach Mercer arrives on the scene from France. Was credited with 269 metres from 48 carries but only against Wales did that have a decisive impact. While there were three turnovers won, he conceded eight, had far too many handling errors and the way he was found wanting for Duhan van der Merwe, Damian Penaud and Dan Sheehan’s tries was deeply concerning.

Jack Willis – 5.5
4 starts (219 mins): Was heading for a much lower grade until he showed himself at his best with his tackling and over-the-ball defiance versus Ireland. He still blotted that effort with his late yellow card that had England down to 13 players at the finish. Could be another to become ineligible for selection unless he signs a 2023/24 Premiership deal to come back from his post-Wasps refuge in Toulouse.

Ben Curry – 2.5
1 start, 3 runs as sub (136 mins): Just like Smith, his handling by Borthwick was head-wrecking going from a start versus Scotland to the round two axe and then an emergency round three recall after his twin Tom went lame. What else stood out? Oh, Ben White leaving him for dead to score in his lone start. Ouch.

Ben Earl – 3.5
2 runs as sub (51 mins): Would have been a far better bet than Curry. Another whose face sadly didn’t fit with Borthwick.

Courtney Lawes – No Rating
1 run as sub (11 mins): A Six Nations to be forgotten, injury ruining his availability.

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Comments

4 Comments
T
Tim 452 days ago

'Silly red card'??? What was Steward supposed to do, evaporate? I stopped reading at this point.

M
Mike 453 days ago

Errrr, you ok hun? Did you have a bad day? I know England had a poor 6 nations but boy! Some of those scores! Have a few days off then come back and try again.

A
Alexander 453 days ago

Some super super harsh assessments there. Jeez give Arundell a little time!!!

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