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England player ratings vs Ireland | 2023 Guinness Six Nations

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Dan Mullan/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

England player ratings live from Aviva Stadium: It’s said you cannot reason with a tiger when your head is in its mouth, but the No1 ranked Ireland were like nervous pussy cats in Dublin for the guts of an hour chasing their Grand Slam triumph, allowing a defiant England to somewhat restore their dented reputation following last weekend’s record home humiliation versus the French.

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It was 50 years ago when the then-England skipper John Pullin famously said after their 1973 hammering at Lansdowne Road, “We may not be very good, but at least we turned up.” However, you could say more about the England class of 2023, as they redeemed their badly battered reputation with a much-improved performance they can be pleased with.

Of course, it wasn’t good enough for a victory, Ireland eventually securing the title with a 29-16 win, but England will head home with plenty of kudos, especially for the way they managed yet another red card against them in this fixture.

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It was last March when Charlie Ewels was dispatched, and England clung on to a 15-all draw until the final 10 minutes at Twickenham before losing that encounter 15-32. Here, they lost Freddie Steward to a red on the blow on the interval, but they went on to only trail Ireland by a single point before Robbie Henshaw’s 63rd-minute try calmed the Irish nerves in a match that ultimately had a four-one try count in favor of the hosts.

Steve Borthwick’s charges had come into this round five fixture gambling that just a single injury-enforced change to last week’s subdued starting pack and the resurrection of the Owen Farrell, Manu Tuilagi, and Henry Slade 10-12-13 combination for a first start since the 2019 Rugby World Cup quarter-final would transform his team – and it did.

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England had vowed to come out swinging and they were in front for 25 first-half minutes, cagey Ireland presenting Farrell with two early shots at goal, but they then came unstuck, the hosts jumping in front when a 33rd-minute try exposed poor maul defending and then Steward got himself cheaply red carded for needlessly elbowing Hugo Keenan.

That numerical imbalance eventually told midway through the second period, leaving Ireland finishing as the Grand Slam champions and England reflecting on their fourth two-wins-from-five-games campaign in six seasons and their third in succession. Here are the England player ratings:

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15. Freddie Steward – 0
Consistently the best of an average England bunch through the championship, he hit a career nadir here with his shabby red card for elbowing opposite number Keenan in the face with just four points separating the teams seconds before the interval. There was a viral debate as to whether it was a red card foul but the moral of the incident was that Steward should never have given the referee the incentive to penalise him in the first place by the way he turned his body into the contact. Had also blotted his copy earlier with some high ball spills and a fumble in the Irish 22 on penalty advantage on 22 minutes.

14. Anthony Watson – 7
Switched to the right wing, he still made it his business to pop up on the left at times to keep Ireland guessing. This was a tidy display throughout, his first-half highlights including one lovely offload in the Irish 22 and then a tackle that forced a Mack Hansen fumble. Continued to impress in the second period with England down to 14.

13. Henry Slade – 6.5
Irrelevant versus France, he wielded influence here as witnessed when good running forced Keenan to shank a first-half kick to touch. Carried well and helped to keep the defence tight to ensure England weren’t embarrassingly buried like a week ago.

12. Manu Tuilagi – 6.5
Back from suspension but his unblemished six-wins-from-six individual record versus Ireland is no more. He did alright, his physical ability keeping a nervous Ireland honest, but he will be disappointed that he was tackled to touch to end England’s major visit to the Irish 22 in the first half.

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11. Henry Arundell – 4
A first start for the 20-year-old won’t be fondly remembered as the Irish defence had his number. Gave up a no-release penalty when a first gallop was halted and was then held up by the famous Irish choke tackle before a second half where Hansen ended another carry near the halfway line. His disappointing day ended when he was pulled just before the hour mark.

10. Owen Farrell – 7.5
Reinstated to the starting XV after last weekend’s chop, he led his team with pride and he can be pleased with his effort despite a plethora of missed tackles. Cured the place-kicking yips that had affected him in Wales to have his team just a single point behind entering the final quarter. Had set the defiant tone that the Irish would have nothing easy when illegally tackling an opposition man in the air not long into the contest.

9. Jack van Poortvliet – 7
Drew a line under his inconsistent championship by producing his best effort yet. There were fewer errors to mull over, and he played with his head up in the second period, kicking smartly at times to give his team some breathing space with the pressure mounting. A useful 70 minutes.

1. Ellis Genge – 7.5
After last week’s whinge and whine show as a first-time skipper, getting in the ear of the referee rather than better playing the opposition, he turned up to impress in Dublin and will take great solace from his determined scrummaging and his incisive carrying even though there were a couple too many missed tackles.

2. Jamie George – 7
Anonymous versus the French, he gave it socks and didn’t tire against the Irish, touching down for England’s sole try off a 73rd-minute maul. Some lineouts went astray but even then he scrambled well, such as his retrieval when one Irish second-half steal went loose deep in his own 22.

3. Kyle Sinckler – 7
Scrapped the whole way through his 68 minutes to keep his side competing and while he will be as pleased as Genge with the scrum and his progress in the carry, it was his breakdown penalty that gave Johnny Sexton his first points which made him the record all-time Six Nations scorer.

4. Maro Itoje – 7
Apart from some grit here and there, he had generally looked like a shadow of himself these past few months. However, he was much more of a nuisance here despite starting with an offside penalty concession and then another soft giveaway for closing the gap at a lineout in the Irish 22. Kept England going in the second half with Irish nerves obvious and he celebrated every good moment with glee. Still wasn’t near his best, however.

5. David Ribbans – 6
In for the injured Ollie Chessum, he helped to give England’s pack a better overall presence at the breakdown to slow down the Irish ball. However, he wasn’t as good as Chessum had been in this role. Another with too many missed tackles.

6. Lewis Ludlam – 6.5
A clear improvement on last week included a good first-half lineout take in the Irish 22, something he failed to manage when in the French 22 early on a week ago. His work rate was positive, but it never looked like it would have a result-changing influence.

7. Jack Willis – 8
Way off the pace against the French, he rebounded with his best Test display yet. A ball of energy, he was credited with 20 first-half tackles and an early breakdown turnover but will be annoyed that it was his penalty that gave Ireland the territory for their first-half try. Less of a standout performer in the second period, something not helped by being in the blood bin when Ireland scored their game-breaking Henshaw try. He was then later yellow-carded for tip-tackling Ross Bryne.

8. Alex Dombrandt – 4.5
With Zach Mercer back from France when England will next play he needed a big game following last week’s anonymity, but it didn’t materialise. Deserved kudos for holding Sexton up over the line off a penalty tap but otherwise struggled to impose himself in the first half. There was no impact carrying and his defence was exposed for the opening Irish try, getting flummoxed by the inside pass when trying to provide protection in the first channel away from a maul. Fared better on the ball in the 25 second half he played before getting subbed off, but his days as the starter could be numbered.

Replacements: 
Borthwick’s bench use hasn’t been inspiring across the championship and it was similar here, the head coach leaving Marcus Smith and Jack Walker unused. Ben Curry got the longest run, coming on as a blood replacement for Willis on 53 and staying on when the flanker returned, Dombrandt exiting instead. Curry’s main moment though, aside from a couple of carries, was getting involved in an argy-bargy bust-up.

Joe Marchant was the other 20-plus minute sub, getting on for Arundell and being quickly targeted by the Sexton kick that resulted in Watson gathering after an awkward big bounce and conceding a five-metre scrum. He wasn’t a game-changer and neither were Nick Isiekwe, Dan Cole, or Alex Mitchell. Mako Vunipola, though, had a few decent carries.

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5 Comments
B
BigMaul 488 days ago

Agree 0 for Steward seems silly. Though he does deserve the worst score as the red card was pivotal. 4 for Arundell and 4.5 for Dombrandt both seem ridiculously harsh too. They weren’t great but no one played that badly for England.

How Farrell is rated our best back beggars belief. 7 missed tackles! Watson and Tuilagi were our best backs.

7 for Itoje and Sinckler maybe a touch generous. 2 penalties apiece. Ribbans hard done by on a 6. He carried really well.

J
Jackson 488 days ago

I say get rid of Steve Borthwick. You've got eight substitutes. Use them.

J
Jackson 488 days ago

What could he have done better. Freddie Steward did nothing he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. He's been the best England player the whole tournament.

R
Roy 489 days ago

0 for Steward? He played almost an entire half, and you've not given zeros to other players red carded It's the last time I read this site until you get some less partisan writers who actually understand rugby.

f
finn 489 days ago

0 for freddie steward? wtf is this

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Shaylen 3 hours ago
Ireland and South Africa share the same player development dilemma

These guys will be utility players Nick it cannot be helped because coaches cannot help themselves. Rassie looks at players like these and sees the ability to cover multiple positions without losing much. It allows the 6-2 or 7-1. He wont change his coaching style or strategy for one player. At provincial level players like these are indispensable. If there is an injury to your starting 12 but your back up 12 is a bit iffy then a coach is going to go with the back up 10 who is gold and who can play a good 12. Damian Willemse for the Springboks is an obvious case, for the Stormers its the same. Dobson plays him at 12 or 15, with Gelant in the team he plays 12 but if Gelant goes down he doesnt go for his back up 15, he just puts Willemse there. With Frawley its the same at international and provincial level. He just slots in wherever. Frans Steyn made a career out of it. He was much maligned though as a youngster as he never fully developed into any role. He then went to Japan and France to decide for himself what kind of player he was, put on muscle and retained his big boot, ran over players and booted the ball long and came back into the Springboks after about 3 years away and was then certain about how he wanted to play the game no matter what position. Coaches cannot help themselves because they only want what is best for their teams and that means putting your most talented players on even if it means you cause them some discomfort. Sometimes players need to decide how they want to play the game and then adapt that to every position and let the coach decide how they want to use them.

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J
Jon 8 hours 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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