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England player ratings vs France | Rugby World Cup 2021

By Tom Vinicombe
Marlie Packer. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins - World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images)

Le Crunch arrived in Whangarei, with both England and France looking to stay unbeaten in the second week of the 2021 Rugby World Cup.

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While the Red Roses have had the wood over their European rivals in recent times, France have caused plenty of headaches for England over the years and Saturday’s match went right down to the wire.

Despite having plenty of opportunities to kick for the posts in the first spell, England persisted on peppering the corner through the boot of Zoe Harrison and they were eventually rewarded through a try to Emily Scarratt.

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A penalty with time almost up in the first half handed England a 10-0 lead going into the break but they were only able to add three more points in the second spell, with France grabbing a try of their own relatively late in the piece to create a grandstand finish. England held strong, however, eventually claiming a 13-7 win and securing themselves a spot in the quarter-finals with one more round of pool action still to play.

How did the England players rate in the victory?

1. Vickii Cornborough – 6/10
Part of a front row that generally looked to have the wood on their opposites but couldn’t take advantage until almost immediately before she left the game. Knocked the ball on when the Red Roses were building phases inside the French danger zone. Off in 56th minute.

2. Amy Cokayne – 8
20 lineout deliveries on target from 20 throws is an immense effort and England’s maul-dominated game showed how important Cokayne will be to their cause later in the tournament. Was an always-willing carrier of the ball, particularly in the first half, but couldn’t carve off quite as many metres as some of her teammates. Topped the tackle charts for England. Fought her way over the line off a nice lineout move towards the end of the third quarter but couldn’t ground the ball.

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3. Sarah Bern – 7
Her carry game became more prominent as the game developed – even managed to get herself over the line but was stripped before she could get the ball down for the try. Pinged once early for not rolling away at the breakdown, continuing a problematic trend for the team from last weekend. Off in 66th minute.

4. Zoe Aldcroft – 7
One of the biggest ball-carriers on the night, especially early doors and did plenty of good work as a link-woman in the open field. Strong at lineout time, grabbing seven on the evening.

5. Abbie Ward – 7.5
The lineout queen, securing all 10 of her deliveries. Made a big play at the end of the third quarter, grabbing a lineout steal inside her own 22 right when France were starting to build some momentum.

6. Alex Matthews – 7.5
A busy, busy evening. Hit double figures on the carry metric early in the second quarter and didn’t relent as the match wore on, making 14 advantage-line carries throughout. Matched Cokayne’s efforts on defence. Couldn’t take hold of the first kick-off but England eventually won themselves a scrum.

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7. Marlie Packer – 8.5
Rarely went backwards in the tackle – whether on attack or defence. A menace with the ball in hand, particularly when popping up in the midfield. Won her team a breakdown penalty when France were building phases early. Ran a great line to create England’s first momentum-laden attacking opportunity, with the Red Roses getting over the line for the first time moments later (although they weren’t able to get the ball to ground). Off in 66th minute.

8. Sarah Hunter – 5
Knocked the ball on when England were building some pressure on attack and generally struggled to get as involved as her teammates. Her decision to constantly call for lineouts when points were on offer could have come back to bite England. Off in 56th minute.

9. Leanne Infante – 6
Distributed well and slowed the game down when necessary towards the end of the match but made a couple of ineffective carries around the base of the ruck that stymied England’s momentum.

10. Zoe Harrison – 7
Relieved plenty of pressure with some solid clearing kicks and mixed up her short kicking game as the game wore on. Looked good when she took on the line.

11. Claudia MacDonald – 8
Safe under the high ball early and became a key attacking option for England as the game wore on, eventually topping the carry metres with 74 to her name. Made a couple of nice runs in traffic. Picked up one chop over the top from Harrison and stormed forwards to get her side into prime attacking position. Offered little on defence when France grabbed their first try of the game.

12. Helena Rowland – 6.5
Was on hand to disrupt a Laure Sansus carry when France were looking likely. Made a great linebreak towards the end of the first half which got England on the front foot. Couldn’t hold onto a flick pass from her midfield partner when space had opened up on the wing.

13. Emily Scarratt – 7
Busted over to score the Red Roses’ first try off a switch pass from Zoe Harrison. Overcooked one kick early in the second quarter, handing attacking ball back to France. Dropped one ball cold with the line begging but nailed all three of her attempts on goal and stepped into the captaincy role when Hunter left the park.

14. Lydia Thompson – 3
A bit of a non-starter, rarely getting her hands on the ball and having almost zero influence on the match. Will likely cede her position to Abby Dow for the crunch games of the tournament. Off in 61st minute.

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15. Ellie Kildunne
Couldn’t shift Maelle Filopon when the French centre got herself over the ball while England were on the attack. Was caught out in no man’s land en route to France’s opening try.

Reserves:

16. Connie Powell – N/A
Unused.

17. Hannah Botterman – 5
On in 56th minute. Copped three penalties in her time on the field. Pinged for going off her feet while counter-rucking, incurred another for a similar offence minutes later, and was then penalised at the scrum with 10 to play. Carried with venom.

18. Maud Muir – N/A
On in 66th minute. Knocked on with her first carry of the game and couldn’t maintain the set-piece advantage England had throughout the early contest.

19. Cath O’Donnell – N/A
On in 66th minute.

20. Poppy Cleall – 6.5
On in 56th minute. Tidied up at the back of the scrum when things weren’t going England’s way. Made one big carry late-game.

21. Lucy Packer – N/A
Unused.

22. Holly Aitchison – N/A
Unused.

23. Abby Dow – 6
On in 61st minute. Made a great run down the right flank with her first touch of the game.

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