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England player ratings | The 42 players capped in Summer Nations 2023

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

It was a month to forget for England with suspension, injuries, lack of form and some terribly damaging results shattering optimism that they will be a trophy threat when the 2023 Rugby World Cup starts.

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Ahead of the upcoming September 9 opener versus Argentina in Marseille, head coach Steve Borthwick used 19 backs and 23 forwards across his team’s four-game Summer Nations Series tune-up.

It would have been 24 forwards but for Tom Curry’s untimely ankle injury preventing him from seeing action ahead of Thursday’s squad departure to their French base in Touquet, a secluded coastal Normandy town well off the beaten track.

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RugbyPass will be on the ground covering Borthwick’s squad every step of the way in France from next weekend. In the meantime, here are the Summer Nations Series England player ratings:

FULL-BACK (1) 
Freddie Steward – 4.5/10 
4 starts (283 mins): A starter in all five Guinness Six Nations matches, he was the only player to start all four Summer Nations games but the top, top form he exhibited when first blazing a Test-level trail in 2021/22 eluded him. Didn’t repeatedly join the attacking line to the best effect while defensively he had some moments to forget, including that penalty try yellow card for toppling Josh Adams.  

Points Flow Chart

England win +2
Time in lead
56
Mins in lead
16
69%
% Of Game In Lead
20%
74%
Possession Last 10 min
26%
3
Points Last 10 min
0

WING (6) 
Max Malins – 4 
2 starts + 1 run as sub (168 mins): Rated 4.5 for his Six Nations and gets even lower here. It’s not entirely his fault as the England attack was too narrow and their genuinely contestable kicks ratio was too poor. Still, had too many individual loose ends in his game, an example being too many turnovers in the opener away in Wales.      

Elliot Daly – 4 
2 starts (160 mins): Back involved after an injury left him unavailable earlier this year, he showed glimpses in the opening periods of the two matches he started at home to Wales and away to Ireland, but those displays petered out the longer they went on with missed tackles and turnovers evident especially versus Irish. Hurt his knee in that game and was a World Cup availability doubt until Sunday’s squad update confirmed he will travel.     

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Jonny May – 5 
1 start (80 mins): An example of not throwing your toys out of the pram and playing the long game. Didn’t make the RWC squad on August 7 but was back training with England as cover the very next day and his reward was a game four start versus Fiji, a lovely taken try – the first by a back in 414 minutes stretching back to late February – and a call up as Anthony Watson’s replacement. On the downside, he was defensively exposed on occasion by the Fijians.  

Anthony Watson – 3 
1 start (69 mins): One of the few players who signed off on Six Nations with credit in the bank, big things were expected of him in a preparatory month where he trained with England without a club for the 2023/24 season. Only started against Ireland and his world caved in last Thursday when it was confirmed a disastrous calf injury from that game had ruled him out of the finals.   

Joe Cokanasiga – 2 
1 start (69 mins): Deserves kudos for being in the mix after so many injury-hit setbacks, but he blew his big opportunity in Wales, a blunt attacking effort further dragged down by his missed tackle for the game-changing Gareth Davies try. Was called back as training cover this past week with Henry Arundell and Daly sidelined.  

Henry Arundell – 2 
1 start (47 mins): A rookie who has struggled to live up to the incredible hype. His four-cap Six Nations, which included a forgettable first start, was repeated here in his sole appearance, a start against Wales in London that was also forgettable due to limited or no ball, a stupid yellow card that lost him 10 valuable minutes and getting the shepherd’s hook early. What was described as a “freak back spasm” has now curtailed his training heading to France.   

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CENTRE (5) 
Joe Marchant – 5.5 
3 starts, 1 run as sub (267 mins): Given just 96 minutes in the Six Nations, Henry Slade’s loss was Marchant gain across August and he capped his progress with the lovely dive-in try in the corner on Saturday versus Fiji. On the debit side of the ledger, his tackling was exposed by the Irish and needs sharpening.  

Ollie Lawrence – 5.5 
2 starts, 1 run as sub (144 mins): Came of age in the spring with three starts and he continued that promise in recent weeks. His metres in the carry were encouragingly high although there were still elements of rawness to his play. Look at how he cheaply kicked the ball away in his 22 against the Fijians when the in-space May was screaming for a pass.

22m Entries

Avg. Points Scored
1.8
12
Entries
Avg. Points Scored
2.4
10
Entries

Manu Tuilagi – 5  
2 start (141 mins): There is an argument that Tuilagi is over the hill at this level, one made this past week by Clive Woodward. The alternative perspective is that England need a power game routed through inside centre. He was half-decent in the carry versus the Irish and the Fijians but what undermined him was a thirst for too much contact – look at how he ignored a pass to the in-space Courtney Lawes in Dublin and instead ran directly into contact. Missed tackles are an issue he quickly must address.  

Guy Porter – 1 
1 start (80 mins): Given a full outing in Cardiff, he could only watch and grimace while he played poorly and fellow midfielder Marchant forced his way into the RWC reckoning with a far livelier effort. 

Henry Slade – 0 
1 run as sun (11 mins): Didn’t get a chance match-wise to show his worth, having just 11 minutes off the bench in Cardiff and then getting the bad news that he hadn’t made the World Cup squad. That was a huge surprise given his regular spring-time selection and his status as the most-used midfielder. Power and positional versatility cruelly counted against him, sadly, and he has been missed judging by how generally blunt England are.    

OUT-HALF (3) 
George Ford – 5 
2 starts, 2 runs as sub (203 mins): It’s crazy to think he is in pole position to start the World Cup as the England No10 given how he was surplus to Six Nations requirement, but his sudden elevation highlights how quickly Test rugby pecking orders can change. Still has a way to go to reach his best, but some slick passing at times versus Fiji offered a glimmer of hope that everything shouldn’t be pessimistic about the England attack. His kick game must improve, though, as England are short of accuracy in the contestables department.

Marcus Smith – 4.5 
1 start, 2 runs as sub (97 mins): Marked low in the Six Nations, he similarly fell down this past month through lack of game time. Started versus Wales in Cardiff and had a very brief spell before half-time where he was orchestral in pulling a couple of strings without an end product. That was that, though, in terms of the No10 shirt. As regards cover, his cameo versus Fiji, in an attacking sense from full-back, was very positive, scoring once and making an important carry to a ruck to assist making another try   

Owen Farrell – 0 
1 start (64 mins): An absolutely disastrous preparation. Having suffered indifferent form in the Six Nations, culminating in getting dropped versus France, much better was hoped for in recent weeks. Instead, he had a ‘mare, his activity curtailed by his high-profile red card against Wales and his subsequent four-game ban.  

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SCRUM-HALF (4) 
Ben Youngs – 2 
1 start + 1 run as sub (105 mins): No one can besmirch his legendary status as the England men’s most-capped player of all time, but it doesn’t look like he has it at this level anymore. Ireland had him in their pocket, with every contribution he made so very predictable and ineffective.    

Danny Care – 3 
1 start + 2 runs as sub (84 mins): It’s curious how media-driven campaigns for players to be internationally recalled so often end in frustration. Care is an example. His club form has consistently been excellent, but this over-structured England approach hasn’t suited and his month culminated in that horror knock-on at a restart kick receipt when introduced versus Fiji.    

Alex Mitchell – 3.5 
1 start (69 mins): Was second in the spring pecking order, coming off the bench on four occasions, but then cast aside from the official RWC training squad named at the end of June. Recalled when van Poortvliet was ruled out and his start against Fiji helped put some tempo on the England attack. The overall limited England game plan, though, curbed his natural instinct to have a cut.  

Jack van Poortvliet – 4.5 
1 start, 1 run as sub (62 mins) 
Endured an even more disastrous August than skipper Farrell as an ankle injury innocuously sustained at Twickenham versus the Welsh needed an operation and ruled him out of the finals in France. Was shackled by the Borthwick way when he featured, the stats counting just one single run in possession as kicking and passing dominated tactics. That’s depressing given the ebullient solo score he crafted last November versus Argentina.

LOOSEHEAD (3)
Ellis Genge – 3.5
3 starts + 1 run as sub (203 mins): Taunted his team’s critics with a bolshie social media message this weekend: “Write us off now, all the best.” You could say fair play if he had been in form this past month, but even he was well below par with his usual high level of involvements way down. Having now talked the talk with his chastening seven-word message, we’ll see how well he can walk the walk on September 9 in Marseille.

Joe Marler – 3
1 start + 2 runs as sub (108 mins): Another whose best days at Test level seem to be behind him. Too few involvements outside the nuts and bolts set-piece and his series ended with Fiji calling out his high shot on Albert Tuisue.

Bevan Rodd – 0
1 run as sub (11 mins): Token minutes off the bench in Cardiff and nothing else. It suggested that Bortwick doesn’t fancy him and he is only an emergency pick in the RWC squad due to Mako Vunipola’s unavailability.

HOOKERS (4)
Jamie George – 5
2 starts (147 mins): One of the prime reasons why England somehow managed their comeback win over Wales, but the worry is that he will be flogged in France and won’t reach his best.

Jack Walker – 0
1 run as sub (8 mins): Spent the summer in injury rehab and only finally pitched up fit for a late, late cameo versus the Fijians. Has it all to do in France to show evidence why he has been included.

Theo Dan – 4
1 start, 2 runs as sub + 1 unused sub (111 mins): We like this rookie’s appetite to get on the ball and carry without hesitation. Certainly has the knack for getting through a gap, but his lack of experience is a concern in such a specialist position heading into the finals.

Jamie Blamire – 1
1 start (54 mins): He blew it. Handed the starting shirt in Cardiff to show he had what it takes to be the back-up to George and he played himself out of the RWC squad with an error-strewn effort.

TIGHTHEADS (3)
Kyle Sinckler – 2
2 runs as sub (61 mins): A starter in all Six Nations matches, he was cottonwooled by Borthwick with a view to being ready to take on the Argentina scrum. Good attitude off the bench in Ireland, getting England on the board from close range, but he is way short of game time heading across the Channel.

Dan Cole – 2
1 start + 1 run as sub (92 mins): Was a throwback to an old-school tighthead who just does the grunt work and avoids the ball at all times. In the modern game, that type of limited role is just not good enough.

Will Stuart – 3
3 starts + 1 run as sub (167 mins): Started enterprisingly with the England scrum winning the penalties for all nine first-half points in Cardiff but his contribution from there trailed off with penalties given up. Getting only 11 minutes against the Fijians wasn’t encouraging optics.

SECOND ROW (5)
Maro Itoje – 4.5
3 starts (240 mins): Glimpses of the old world-class Itoje were fleeting, such as the maul try versus Wales. His form has plateaued and there is an argument that he should no longer be guaranteed his starting place.  

George Martin – 4.5 
2 starts (160 mins): Started the opening two matches but has since picked up a knee injury. Was energetic in Cardiff but there is a debate to be had on whether he is the better RWC pick than the excluded Jonny Hill.  

David Ribbans – 4
2 starts + 1 run as sub (108 mins): A bit-player earlier this year due to Borthwick’s preference for Chessum, his failed HIA in Cardiff set back his progress and his start against the Irish was a sharp reminder of the heights he needs to reach.    

Ollie Chessum – 5 
1 start + 1 run as sub (98 mins): A starting lock on four occasions in the Six Nations, he timed his return from his ankle dislocation to perfection, getting back into the thick of it off the bench in Dublin and then starting against Fiji where there was a step-up in the calibre of England mauling. There were understandably some rusty moments, though, as well as a reminder that he is another old-school, ball-allergic operator. 

Jonny Hill – 1 
1 run as sub + 1 unused sub (34 mins): Was always up against it having tumbled down the pecking order from being an Eddie Jones favourite to being unwanted in the Six Nations. Borthwick, a former lock, doesn’t seem to rate him, which is a pity as he has that nuisance edge about him that can get under the skin of an opposition.  

Team Form

Last 5 Games

3
Wins
3
1
Streak
2
13
Tries Scored
17
-5
Points Difference
37
2/5
First Try
2/5
2/5
First Points
3/5
1/5
Race To 10 Points
2/5

BACK ROW (8) 
Ben Earl – 4.5 
3 starts (240 mins): After two February runs off the bench were followed by exclusion from Six Nations selection, it was hard to imagine Earl being in the situation he now is, starting three successive matches. While he can look back with fondness on his display against Wales, his Ireland and Fiji appearances showed the consistency isn’t there yet at this level and his second-half, try-conceding ruck guard error on Saturday was inexplicable.       

Courtney Lawes – 5 
3 starts (235 mins): Having had a miserable injury-hit Six Nations that lasted only 11 minutes, he put that frustration behind him with successive starts in recent weeks. Nowhere near his top form but at least he is encouragingly heading slowly in the right direction.  

Billy Vunipola – 0  
2 starts (104 mins): Another who was overlooked for the Six Nations but is now seen as integral. He wrecked his preparation, though, with that red card in Dublin that will see him miss the start of the finals. Described by Borthwick as never looking as fit as he is now but he was leggy when he played, and his carry stats were not as high as they needed to be. 

Lewis Ludlam – 5.5 
1 start + 1 run as sub (102 mins): An ever-present in the Six Nations with five starts and a full 400 minutes, his minutes were curtailed this month but when he played he was energetic and full of involvement.  

Jack Willis – 5 
1 start + 2 runs as sub (82 mins): Started four times in the spring, but has since fallen down the pecking order and his one start came to a curious conclusion with him getting subbed immediately after having given Fiji penalty points.  

Tom Pearson – 4 
1 start (80 mins): Given a Test debut in Cardiff, he played well but his inexperience was always likely to count against him for RWC selection and so it proved.   

Alex Dombrandt – 1 
1 start (54 mins): In the Blamire category of playing himself out of the World Cup squad with what he did in Cardiff. That was his sixth successive start at No8, but his performance was iffy and he paid a massive price. 

Tom Willis – 2 
1 run as sub (26 mins): Another who was given a Cardiff debut as a reward for his efforts in the training squad, but that cameo wasn’t enough for RWC selection. 

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finn 10 hours ago
Massive red flag raised by weakened Champions Cup teams – Andy Goode

I wonder if the problem of some teams not taking it that seriously would be helped by making performance in the champions cup count towards qualification and/or seeding in the following year’s competition. Eg. top four seeds would be winners of the URC, premiership, and top 14, plus best performing team in the previous year’s CC who have not otherwise qualified. Doing that the seedings for this years comp. would have been: Tier one: Saracens - Munster - Toulouse - la Rochelle Tier two: Sale - Stormers - Racing 92 - Leinster Tier three: Leicester - Connacht - Bordeaux - Exeter Tier four: Northampton - Ulster - Lyon - Sharks Tier five: Harlequins - Glasgow - Stade Francais - Edinburgh Tier six: Bath - Bulls - Toulon - Ospreys The competition would probably work better with fewer teams, so I’d probably favour only the first 4 tiers being invited, and then going straight to a quarter final without a round of 16. On the one hand this would possibly incentivise teams to take the champions cup seriously, and on the other it would mean that the latter stages would be more likely to involve teams that have demonstrated a willingness to take the competition seriously. The main differences between my proposed system and the actual draw is that mine would give la Rochelle a fairly easy ride to the quarters, and would either exclude the Bulls entirely or would give then an insurmountably difficult draw. As it happened Exeter got quite an easy pool draw but that was a bit of a fluke. My system would reward Exeter for being one of the teams that demonstrably devote a lot of attention to the CC by guaranteeing them a good draw.

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