England booked their ticket to a fourth World Cup final on Saturday in Yokohama, beating reigning champions New Zealand 19-7 in the semi-final.
It was undoubtedly the biggest win of Eddie Jones’ tenure as England head coach and despite his team having recorded more convincing victories in terms of scoreline over the last four years, it was perhaps the most complete performance that has been seen from them.
RugbyPass rates their players below on what was a memorable night in Japan:
- Elliot Daly – 7
Not the most eye-catching display Daly will ever have for England, though his work doing the unglamorous elements of the game was impressive. His chasing of kicks was effective, New Zealand weren’t able to trouble him in the kicking game and his ruck work was vital, particularly when Anthony Watson broke off his trademark incisive runs.
- Anthony Watson – 8
Watson’s work in defence was exceptional, as the wing denied New Zealand in a number of two-on-one scenarios thanks to his decision-making and tackling technique. In attack, he was consistently able to evade the first one or two defenders and drew in multiple players to stop him, creating space elsewhere on the pitch.
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- Manu Tuilagi – 8
The centre started the game in punishing fashion, burrowing over for an early try and making the right defensive read to grab an interception that should have led to a try. His impact was lower key after that, although he was a valuable source of gain line successes in attack and his defence was stout in the midfield, especially in the second half.
- Owen Farrell – 7.5
A first half injury limited Farrell to just one kick at goal, although his kicking from hand was effective and his handling skills and ball-carrying at No12 helped take the pressure off of George Ford at fly-half. It was a positive performance, although he did cough up a few turnovers, whether through isolating himself as a carrier or throwing an offload that wasn’t on.
- Jonny May – 7
May’s footwork and ability in the air were both on show to good effect, although it did look as though his top-end pace was affected by the hamstring injury he had been suffering from. He didn’t put a foot wrong, although his game was curtailed early in the second half with what looked like a reoccurrence of the injury.
- George Ford – 8
It was another strong performance in defence from Ford, who has been actively dispelling the notion of his weaknesses in that area. As an attacking influence, his silky handling and link play allowed England to shift the point of contact and put their power carriers through holes in the New Zealand defence. Nailed four of his five kicks.
- Ben Youngs – 7
One or two early box-kicks went slightly short or slightly long, though for the most part he found space and English chasers were ready to compete and/or tackle. Defensively, too, he was solid. His distribution was accurate and quick whenever New Zealand’s counter-ruck allowed it to be.
- Mako Vunipola – 8
In addition to giving England a solid platform at the scrum, as well as working a penalty out of New Zealand at the set-piece, Vunipola got through a mountain of work as a one-out carrier and first receiver.
- Jamie George – 8
George excelled for the most part with his throwing at the lineout, successfully connecting with 16 of his 18 throws, while England’s scrum held up well. He was probably more active as a ball-carrier and raiding down the wide channels in this game than he was at any other at this World Cup.
- Kyle Sinckler – 7.5
There were only a handful of scrums for Sinckler to negotiate during his time on the pitch, where he was solid. As ever, though, it was his playmaking skills that really stood out, as he prospered as a first receiver with his passing and touches. One knock-on was the only blot on his copybook.
- Maro Itoje – 9
The lock called an excellent lineout against the All Blacks and in addition to being an efficient attacking option, he was a persistent pest in defence. He won four turnovers at a combination of the lineout, maul and breakdown, while his quickness to the ruck helped deliver safe ball for England. He also took a game-high eight lineouts catches.
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- Courtney Lawes – 7.5
Lawes was the primary option at attacking lineouts in the first half, as he claimed six, while he was also able to disrupt New Zealand’s throw and grab a steal. His power and precision in the tackle was vital in stymying the All Backs, in particular in that first half.
- Tom Curry – 8
The blindside stepped up as the third lineout option and combined it with a strong carrying performance and being a turnover menace at the breakdown, winning two for his side. It was an effective outing, although an overrun line, which was pinged for crossing and denied a try, and an intercepted pass held his rating back slightly.
- Sam Underhill – 9
Underhill was arguably the pick of England’s back row, all of whom had solid games. The openside’s carrying was effective and he was a consistent threat at the breakdown. Although he only won one turnover, he slowed down and disrupted New Zealand’s ball with abandon. His dominant tackles were momentum-changers in the second half.
- Billy Vunipola – 8
A performance that was every bit as industrious as his brother’s, as the No8 carried his through New Zealand throughout the game. His offloading found space for England, too, while he kept his side’s defence effective with legal big tackles.
- Luke Cowan-Dickie – 6
Successfully connected with his only lineout throw and added a carrying option as England saw out the clock.
- Joe Marler – 6
The loosehead was an important part of the late defensive effort from England, most notably with his low, chopping tackles.
- Dan Cole – 6.5
Cole didn’t have any scrummaging to do after coming on but was solid around the fringes in defence and punctured the New Zealand line with a couple of strong carries.
- George Kruis – 6.5
Kruis was physical in the tackle after coming on, as well as replacing Lawes as a lineout option.
- Mark Wilson – 6.5
The flanker won a crucial turnover penalty inside England’s 22 with less than ten minute to play.
- Willi Heinz – 6
Controlled the game well as England saw out the final 15 minutes.
- Henry Slade – 6.5
Made a crucial tackle on Sevu Reece with the try line beckoning. Also popped up with a couple of incisive passes and touches as the game wound down.
- Jonathan Joseph – N/A
Came on too late to really affect the game.
WATCH: How Jim Hamilton previewed the England versus New Zealand semi-final on Don’t Mess With Jim
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