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England player ratings | The 31 players capped in Six Nations 2024

By Liam Heagney
England huddle in Lyon last Saturday night after the final whistle versus France (Photo by Dan Mullan/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

England player ratings Guinness Six Nations 2024: Manu Tuilagi’s cameo off the England bench last Saturday in Lyon brought the number of players capped by Steve Borthwick in the 2024 Guinness Six Nations to 31, 22 starters and nine more who featured as a replacement.

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Eight players started in all five matches with two – Maro Itoje and Ben Earl – playing in all 400 minutes. There were 15 backs and 16 forwards used. Nineteen had featured at Rugby World Cup 2023, seven were previously capped players who were recalled after being overlooked for that campaign in France, while there were five new caps.

It wasn’t a campaign to hang in the Louvre but, collectively, these players can feel pleased with what they achieved.

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It was the first time since 2020, when the English were crowned champions that October due to the March lockdown, that they ended a Six Nations campaign with more wins than losses, a three-wins-from-five record that was good enough for third place.

That’s progress. Having watching all five games live at the stadiums in Rome, London (twice), Edinburgh, and Lyon, here are the RugbyPass England player ratings for the 2024 Six Nations:

Six Nations

P
W
L
D
PF
PA
PD
BP T
BP-7
BP
Total
1
Ireland
5
4
1
0
20
2
France
5
3
1
1
15
3
England
5
3
2
0
14
4
Scotland
5
2
3
0
12
5
Italy
5
2
2
1
11
6
Wales
5
0
5
0
4

FULL-BACK (3)
George Furbank – 7
3 starts (167 minutes): A shock round three inclusion for a first appearance in two years, his involvement was a curate’s egg. Added fine potency to the England attack, striking for tries versus the Scots and the Irish, but there were also too many frustrating mistakes. The campaign ended on the sad note of a seventh-minute calf injury away to France, but we’ll see him again as the starting No15 due to his creative ability.

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Freddie Steward – 4.5
2 starts (160 mins): Defensively had issues versus Italy and Wales in shutting the door and while his aerial prowess lit up the later stages of that latter win, he was overall very limited in attack and ultimately paid a heavy price. It wasn’t new; he had been axed for the Rugby World Cup quarter-final versus Fiji last October. But this exclusion will hit much harder. Think about it; Borthwick and attack coach Richard Wigglesworth were his Leicester mentors and they have unceremoniously turfed him out again. It could be a very long road back, especially if his confidence has taken a shattering dent.

Marcus Smith – 6
2 runs as sub (95 mins): A calf injury in Girona ruled him out in February. He came on at out-half for the closing 22 minutes against Ireland and struck the winning drop goal on penalty advantage, but we have included him at full-back as that was where he covered for 73 minutes last weekend after Furbank limped off in Lyon. His display there highlighted that he doesn’t have the physical presence or positional awareness to sweep soundly in that No15 role and is a defensive liability. To his immense credit, though, his excellent attitude ensured the head didn’t drop and he had attacking vision, scoring and also giving an assist. That’s the rub: does what he offers in attack outweigh defensive vulnerability? We don’t fully believe it does.

WING (3)
Tommy Freeman – 8
5 starts (397 mins): What an excellent comeback campaign for a player given a debut sniff by Eddie Jones and then nothing since November 2022 until now. He told RugbyPass in January how he had added some bulk and that he was ready for the call and boy was he correct. He was a very efficient operator, hugely productive in the carry where he made seven linebreaks, and sound in defence. He ended the campaign on a March high capped by his well-finished 75th-minute try in France, but he was also good in February when the going was trickier and England were struggling to impress. He is back to stay and that’s a great thing.

Elliot Daly – 5.5
4 starts, 1 run as sub (329 mins): A Borthwick selection favourite, he got the campaign going with a 19th-minute try in Rome that was his highlight closely followed by the break that created the Furbank score in Edinburgh, a match where he played the closing quarter at outside centre. Other than those two moments it was a difficult watch as he was often far too isolated and anonymous with the games unfolding elsewhere and he became the fall guy for Feyi-Waboso’s selection against the Irish. England’s approach certainly didn’t help to consistently get the best out of him in attack but you’d expect a multi-capped 31-year-old to have the nous to still wield influence. His late yellow card in Rome also prevented his team from finishing strongly in round one as their winning margin was cut from 10 points to three rather than getting healthier in the final minutes.

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Immanuel Feyi-Waboso – 8
1 start, 2 runs as sub, 1 unused sub (102 mins): What a wonderful young man, both on and off the pitch. He didn’t play all that much but his round three cameo in Scotland was so good that opposition coach Gregor Townsend felt compelled to name-drop his danger post-game. Tnen showed he can be a very competent starter when picked against Ireland. It was after that when his off-field character kicked in, self-diagnosing the concussion that left him unavailable to play the French. Now he is a medical student, so he knows about such things, but what he did sent out a very positive message to the game about player welfare. Very well played.

MIDFIELD (4)
Henry Slade – 6
5 starts (345 mins): Another comeback player who started all five matches but his return wasn’t as consistently impressive as that enjoyed by Freeman. He didn’t gel with Fraser Dingwall as his midfield partner and there were also teething issues with Ollie Lawrence in Scotland and the first half in France. Had an eye for the try assist, though, as he gave two, while he wasn’t shy either in sticking his boot to the ball when needed. The bottom line was he had good moments without fully convincing he was at the top of his game.

Ollie Lawrence – 8.5
3 starts (240 mins): After a hip injury left him unavailable for the opening two rounds, he enjoyed a coming-of-age March after getting washed away in Edinburgh by England’s collective toll of handling errors. He had only scored two tries in 21 appearances coming into the Irish and French fixtures but three tries in two games against two of the world’s best teams was fantastic. He had played that inside centre role before and been starved of the ball but George Ford upped his passing game and the fruits of that tactic were there for everyone to enjoy and Lawrence is now a serious Test-level player.

Fraser Dingwall – 5.5
2 starts (160 mins): Defensively, he struggled to adapt to the blitz defence brought in by Felix Jones and a load of missed tackles affected the debut maker in Rome and again in London against the Welsh. To his credit, he kept trucking and was rewarded with a crucial second-half, round-two try. He was always going to be excluded, though, whenever Lawrence or Tuilagi pitched up fit and that was what happened, Lawrence impressively taking the 12 shirt for the three remaining games.

Manu Tuilagi – 2
1 run as sub (21 mins): The writing was on the wall for the 32-year-old midfield powerhouse’s Test career in this campaign. Whereas he was Borthwick’s bulwark at the World Cup, a groin injury made him miss the opening rounds and he then lost out to Lawrence in the selection battle to replace Dingwall. That was quite the change as Tuilagi was always a must-pick whenever he was fit. He did make it onto the bench in France where he got a last-quarter run but his international career is now officially over following Tuesday’s confirmation of a two-year deal with Bayonne that will make him ineligible for future selection.

OUT-HALF (2)
George Ford – 8
5 starts (345 mins): For whatever reason, Ford just isn’t generally liked and he remained a target for the in-stadium boo boys and the never-go-to-matches keyboard warriors. That’s a shame as his campaign was an uplifting one. Look at how he emphatically bossed the end-game versus the Welsh to ensure England got in front and also lap up the deft passing that got his team on the front foot versus the Irish and the French, a contribution capped by that marvellous tip on in the late Freeman try and then his balls of steel sideline conversion kick for a 31-30 lead in Lyon with time almost up. Yes, there were issues. His passing in Scotland, for instance, stank, but he overall gave this team the direction it needed to make this their best Six Nations in quite some time.

Fin Smith – 5
2 runs as sub, 1 unused sub (33 mins): One for the future. The youngster had shot the winter lights out with Northampton but Test level was a massive step up for the rookie. He didn’t motor England on against the Italians despite a 10-point cushion when he arrived but there was a brief round-three glimpse of what he is capable of when he had no hesitation in getting over George Martin at a Murrayfield ruck to ensure the ball came quickly back for the Feyi-Waboso score. Frozen out in March with the other Smith back fit, but he will be back.

SCRUM-HALF (3)
Alex Mitchell – 7.5
4 starts (260 mins): What an eight months it has been for the scrum-half. So underrated was he by Borthwick that he didn’t even make the World Cup training squad, but he has now signed off on Six Nations 2024 having been the starting No9 in 10 of England’s last 13 matches. His importance was never more apparent than when unavailable versus Scotland due to a knee injury. The forwards/backs connection took a severe wobble that day and his recovery was integral in the team’s improvement in the closing two matches. We didn’t see enough of his snipe as box-kicking took precedence, but when we did it was clinical judging by his lead-taking try in Italy after the visitors were behind at the break.

Danny Care – 6
1 starts, 4 runs as sub (106 mins): You can only admire Care’s bubbly enthusiasm and his 100th cap milestone was an example that nice guys can succeed. Some of his bench cameos were excellent, namely versus Wales and then giving the pass for Smith to drop the winner against Ireland. Subbing is definitely his role, though, as his start up in Scotland turned into a mess. After a decent opening helped England go 10 points up, it was his needless kick out on the full that invited the Scots to turn the game on its head.

Ben Spencer – 3
1 run as sub (34 mins): It was a lovely touch that the Mitchell emergency created the vacancy for Spencer to come onto the Murrayfield bench and earn his first cap since a token few minutes as the 2019 World Cup final replacement. However, he was on a hiding to nothing with England in am Edinburgh hole that they didn’t have the collective composure to dig themselves out of.

LOOSEHEAD (3)
Joe Marler – 6
2 starts, 3 runs as sub (203 mins): Didn’t stand out but didn’t let the side down either, although his pre-game fed-up-with-celebration comments about Scotland likely didn’t go unnoticed north of the border.

Ellis Genge – 7.5
3 starts, 1 run as sub (192 mins): Slow start with injury and bench selection, but his work rate as a starter in Scotland was a sign of better to come and he showed this with a very encouraging March where his set-piece was reliable and his ball carrying so welcome. The highlight was the pop that sent Earl through the hole for the Smith try last weekend.

Beno Obano – 2
1 run as sub (5 mins): Genge’s 11th-hour foot injury got him onto the bench in Rome but his five-minute cameo – his first Test-level game time since the summer of 2021 – wasn’t the catalyst for him to threaten the top two preferred players.

HOOKER (2)
Jamie George – 7.5
5 starts (313 mins): The new skipper deserved kudos for the way he fronted up at a time of immense grief with his super rugby fan mum Jane tragically passing away a few days after the win over Wales. It was understandable he was below par in the next game but he defiantly insisted England could beat Ireland and he was spot on with that prediction. Borthwick interestingly lightened the load on George in March. Unlike at the World Cup where there was a succession of 80-minute appearances, he was there for just 53 and 49 minutes against the Irish and the French.

Theo Dan – 6
5 runs as sub (87 mins): Apart from an overthrow that gave France possession for a second-half try last weekend, he hoovered up some good experiences across the tournament and came out a bit more from George’s shadow than at the World Cup. He remains one for the future, though, as George is very much still way ahead as the first choice.

TIGHTHEAD (2):
Dan Cole – 6.5
3 starts, 2 runs as sub (211 mins): It’s crazy to think that a 37-year-old who was ignored for three years after the 2019 World Cup now has his fingerprints all over the No3 Test shirt again. Don’t expect him to ever do anything that involves the ball. He remains a thoroughbred old-school tighthead who locks the scrum, throws his lineout man in the air and patrols breakdowns. His diligent March efforts obliterated post-Murrayfield calls for him to be retired.

Will Stuart – 5.5
2 starts, 3 runs as sub (189 mins): When he scored two tries as a Jones sub versus the All Blacks in November 2022, there would have been an expectation that he would accelerate ahead of Kyle Sinckler. He did but Borthwick’s recall of Cole from the wilderness highlighted there is now a preference again for set-piece reliability ahead of swanky ball stuff. That was a tricky situation and he didn’t look the part in his round one and two starts.

LOCK (3)
Maro Itoje – 6.5

5 starts (400 mins): A curiosity. He played every single minute of the championship, was ranked sixth overall across the six teams for attacking ruck arrivals and second only to Wales’ Tommy Reffell for defensive ruck arrivals. That hints at a very lively work rate, yet the overall feeling was that this was an average tournament for Itoje and the rock star moments he has a reputation for producing were limited. Perhaps his best involvement was his assist in the Furbank try against Ireland.

George Martin – 8
2 starts, 1 run as sub (194 mins): The world got to notice this guy’s class with his semi-final effort versus the Springboks at the World Cup and after recovering from a club knee injury, he returned for the last three games of England’s campaign and was especially immense in ambushing the Irish. He managed 18 cleanouts in total in his two-and-a-bit appearances, the same as Itoje registered in five full matches. A world-class operator in the making.

Alex Coles – 6
2 runs as sub (27 mins): He didn’t have much involvement and was omitted as soon as Martin was fit, but his cameo against the Welsh was important. It was his intervention in the 22 as a HIA sub for Ollie Chessum that ended a 25-phase first-half Wales move, and he eventually finished with a double-figure tackle count for a 19-minute performance. That’s what you call making yourself useful.

FLANKER (5)
Ollie Chessum – 7.5
Five starts (330 mins): Made three of his starts at lock but we’re including him among the flankers as his two best displays came at blindside against the Irish and the French. He is a bruiser who now definitely knows what is what around the Test breakdown and while his type of grunt doesn’t get admirers like a Smith drop goal or an Earl try, his overall effort was more impactful than Itoje. The big question is can he build a Test partnership at lock with Martin, his Leicester clubmate, and heap the pressure on Itoje who seems to be very protected by Borthwick from getting dropped?

Sam Underhill – 6.5
5 starts (310 mins): Given how he was abruptly cut from the World Cup training squad in mid-July, this was an unexpected renaissance. His displays weren’t on the super-powered level of his defensive tour de force when called up mid-tournament to France 2023 and being player of the match in the bronze medal win over Argentina, but there was a nuggety defiance all through and his four breakdown steals were second only to the eight by Reffell, who set the bar for openside play in the tournament.

Ethan Roots – 6
3 starts, 1 run as sub (214 mins): Started brightly, being voted the player of the match in Italy, but then encountered testing times with his yellow card versus the Welsh and being anonymous in Scotland. His effort off the Lyon bench, though, will have done his confidence the world of good in that he left his maiden championship on better terms than if Edinburgh was his last appearance.

Chandler Cunningham-South – 7.5
4 runs as sub (76 mins): This youngster is set for a lengthy Test career if his four bench cameos – all made before his 21st birthday on March 18 – are anything to go by. He was fearless in everything he did, being physical in the carry and robust in defence. It was a shame it all ended in that calf injury against Ireland, another fixture where he horsed into the opposition with glee.

Alex Dombrandt – 4.5
2 runs as sub (29 mins): The big name omission along with Slade for the World Cup after a string of starts last year, he managed to get a spot on the March bench to make his comeback but didn’t catch the eye with what little he did.

No8 (1)
Ben Earl – 9.5

5 starts (400 mins): We would have given Earl a 10 but for that cruel denouement in Lyon last Saturday where he was penalised for a debatable no-arms tackle to give France the penalty they kicked for the win. His transformation these past 13 months has been incredible. From getting shelved in February 2023 after two bench cameos to becoming the first name on Borthwick’s teamsheet is a remarkable story and a brilliant case study to not put the head down in a time of distress and instead keep fighting.

There could have been an understandable dip in his performances after his surprisingly stellar World Cup but he reached new heights in recent weeks, scoring a couple of excellent tries, being involved in a few more, and also appearing at or near the top in so many end of tournament statistical charts – including carries. His 73 was a No1 effort, and he wielded nuisance without the ball as well as his 46 defensive rucks were fifth best behind Reffell. His impact has changed England’s thinking away from having a Billy Vunipola-like hulk at No8.

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Comments

3 Comments
j
john 120 days ago

Disagree with how Marcus Smith has been rated thought he was very good at 10 when he came on against Ireland .When he played fullback for most of the match I would sat that was a 8 out of 10 performance and he scored a great try .

C
Chris 121 days ago

Never understood why Earl wasn’t pick for the past 5-7 years… It feels like everybody except English coaches knew his worth.
A player of this caliber that can play 6-7 or 8 is not something you should just scrub away as Jones did (or Borthwick last year).

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Jon 53 minutes ago
Ireland and South Africa share the same player development dilemma

I think the main problem here is the structure of both countries make up. They are going to have very similar.. obstacles(not problems). It will just be part of the evolution of their rugby and they’ll need to find a way to make this versatility more advantageous than specialization. I think South Africa are well on the way to that end already, but Ireland are more likely to have a hierarchical approach and move players around the provinces. Sopoaga is going to be more than good enough to look up one of those available positions for more than a few years I believe though. Morgan would definitely be a more long term outlook. Sacha to me has the natural footwork of a second five. Not everything is about winning, if a team has 3 players that want to play 10s just give them all a good go even if its to the detriment of everyone, this is also about dreams of the players, not just the fans. This is exactly how it would be in an amateur club setting. Ultimately some players just aren’t suited to any one position. The example was of a guy that had size and speed, enough pace to burn, power to drive, and speed to kick and pass long, but just not much else when it came to actual rugby (that matched it). New Zealand has it’s own example with Jordie Barrett and probably shows what Reece Hodge could have been if the game in Australia had any administration. Despite the bigger abundance of talent in NZ, Jordie was provided with consistent time as a fullback, before being ushered in as a second five. Possibly this was due to his blood, and another might not have been as fortunate, but it is what it was, a complete contrast to how Hodge was used in Australia, were he could have had any position he wanted. When it comes down to it though, much like these young fellas, it will be about what they want, and I think you’ll find they’ll be like Hodge and just want to be as valuable to the team as they can and play wherever. It’s not like 63 International Cap is a hard thing to live with as a result of that decision!

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f
finn 9 hours ago
Ireland and South Africa share the same player development dilemma

What a difference 9 months makes! Last autumn everyone was talking about how important versatile bench players were to SA’s WC win, now we’re back to only wanting specialists? The timing of this turn is pretty odd when you consider that some of the best players on the pitch in the SA/Ireland match were Osbourne (a centre playing out of position at 15), Feinberg-Mngomezulu (a fly-half/centre playing out of position at 15), and Frawley (a utility back). Having specialists across the backline is great, but its not always necessary. Personally I think Frawley is unlikely to displace Crowley as first choice 10, but his ability to play 12 and 15 means he’s pretty much guaranteed to hold down a spot on the bench, and should get a decent amount of minutes either at the end of games or starting when there are injuries. I think Willemse is in a similar boat. Feinberg-Mngomezulu possibly could become a regular starter at 10 for the Springboks, but he might not, given he’d have to displace Libbok and Pollard. I think its best not to put all your eggs in one basket - Osbourne played so well at the weekend that he will hopefully be trusted with the 15 shirt for the autumn at least, but if things hadn’t gone well for him he could have bided his time until an opportunity opened up at centre. Similarly Feinberg-Mngomezulu is likely to get a few opportunities at 15 in the coming months due to le Roux’s age and Willemse’s injury, but given SA don’t have a single centre aged under 30 its likely that opportunities could also open up at 12 if he keeps playing there for Stormers. None of this will discount him from being given gametime at 10 - in the last RWC cycle Rassie gave a start at 10 to Frans Steyn, and even gave de Klerk minutes there off the bench - but it will give him far more opportunities for first team rugby.

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