The odds were upset at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday afternoon, as England defeated reigning Grand Slam champions Ireland, 32-20, in Dublin.


England made a fast start to the game, crossing the whitewash within 90 seconds, before exerting further pressure later in the half and taking a 17-10 lead into the interval. The second half was a tense and tight affair, before England were able to kick on, showing plenty of composure and clinically taking the opportunities they were creating.

We have rated all 23 of England’s players from their impressive Guinness Six Nations opener.

  1. Elliot Daly – 7

The full-back impressed with his work in the wider channels, linking play well and assisting Jonny May for the opening score of the game. He replicated it later in the game, kicking through for Jack Nowell to pressure Jacob Stockdale, which allowed Daly to dive on the loose ball for England’s second try. The Irish kicking game did manage to catch him deep a few times, though, allowing the Irish chase to win the ball back or forcing the English 15 into knocking on.

  1. Jack Nowell – 7

Nowell was constantly looking for work off of his wing at the Aviva, popping up all over the midfield in search of mismatches. His work rate chasing was epitomised by his harassing of Stockdale, which led to the Ulsterman losing control of the ball and Daly diving on it for a try. He had a quieter second half, but did his defensive duties well.

  1. Henry Slade8

Switched up well with Manu Tuilagi and kept Ireland guessing as to exactly where Tuilagi would be hitting the line. He showed up well defensively, too, making a number of big hits and not getting caught tight, as he did on a couple of occasions in the autumn. Fully deserved his second half try, partly for assisting his own assist, with a lovely flat pass to May, who kicked into space for Slade to chase and dive on over the try line. Finished the game with a remarkable defensive read that saw him intercept Jonathan Sexton inside the Irish 22 and gallop in for his second score.

  1. Manu Tuilagi7

The centre was busy in the first half, regularly offering a carrying option, as well as showing the soft hands to bring teammates around him into play. He even stepped up as an option on a long lineout throw at the beginning of the half. He had particular joy running some incisive lines back in against the grain, making the most of Owen Farrell’s late play on the gain-line, as well as making a number of powerful solo tackles.

  1. Jonny May8

May grabbed an early try, showing his pace and finishing ability, but it was his work in the air which really impressed. He beat Robbie Henshaw and Keith Earls on multiple contested balls in the air and was constantly harassing the Irish back three with his chasing. Set up Slade with a measured kick in the second half, too. A kick out on the full aside, it was a very solid showing from the Leicester wing.

  1. Owen Farrell8

The fly-half’s flat pass to Daly for May’s early score was pinpoint and representative of a good distribution game for Farrell. He linked well with Tuilagi and Slade and controlled things well for England. He was successful with five of his seven kicks and defended physically, but with the control that is sometimes missing.

  1. Ben Youngs9

A fine tactical kicking display from Youngs, who arguably out-duelled his opposite number Conor Murray on the day. He constantly had an awareness of where the space was, as well as bringing a good tempo to England’s play that allowed them to stretch Ireland’s defence. Effective scramble defence, too.

  1. Mako Vunipola8

The loosehead came under some expected pressure from Tadhg Furlong, but held up well after struggling in the first scrum. His work slowing down Irish ball at the breakdown and making metres for England around the fringes was invaluable in helping his side control the gain-line on both sides of the ball, particularly in the first half.

  1. Jamie George7

George was successful with eight of his nine lineouts and was a willing worker in defence and attack throughout. Played to a high standard for a 76-minute shift.

  1. Kyle Sinckler7

He dealt well with Cian Healy’s early pressure at the scrum, staying straight and providing an anchor for the set-piece. Soft hands in the loose helped England find some joy breaking the gain-line and he offered himself as a willing carrier, also. Seemed to scrummage stronger as the game went on, before being replaced by Harry Williams in the 64th minute.

  1. Maro Itoje7

Delivered all of the intensity you would expect from Itoje, leading England’s chase and defensive line, as well as getting his fingers to Irish box-kicks. He grabbed a steal at the breakdown and was England’s primary option at attacking lineouts. He was unfortunately forced from the field after 53 minutes with an apparent knee injury.

  1. George Kruis6

Kruis ate up a lot of work around the fringes, efficiently tackling low and contributing to England’s success with dominant tackles. Didn’t manage to disrupt the Irish lineout as much as he would have liked, but competed on a number of throws and prevented Ireland getting quick and clean ball.

  1. Mark Wilson7

Another industrious performance from Wilson, who was a big part of England’s excellent defensive showing. Frequently worked in unison with the likes of Billy Vunipola and Kruis, driving Irish carriers backwards, as well as chipping in at the lineout.

  1. Tom Curry8

Curry showed good line speed and mobile defence in the midfield on his first Six Nations start, as exhibited by his second half charge-down of Sexton, but a late shot on Earls that saw him sent to the bin for 10 minutes marred his first half. Seemed at times to be man-marking Sexton and did so to very good effect.

  1. Billy Vunipola7

The number eight was a big part of England’s dominant tackling in the defensive line, frequently driving powerful Irish carriers back before the gain-line. He was another of the English forwards leading the impressive line-speed throughout.


  1. Luke Cowan-Dickie5

Came on too late to have an impact.

  1. Ellis Genge5

Came on too late to have an impact.

  1. Harry Williams6

Kept the scrum ticking along well after replacing Sinckler and ate up a number of carries around the fringes.

  1. Courtney Lawes – 7

Brought some welcome physicality off the bench, making a couple of his trademark big tackles. His defensive reads were critical for England in the second half.

  1. Nathan Hughes6

Hughes did an admirable job, playing just under half an hour in the second row, after Itoje left the field with an injury.

  1. Dan Robsonn/a

Unused replacement.

  1. George Ford5

Came on too late to have an impact.

  1. Chris Ashton5

Came on too late to have an impact.

Watch: England in training before the test in Dublin

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