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England player ratings vs Scotland | 2023 Guinness Six Nations

By Liam Heagney
England skipper Owen Farrell (Photo by Adam Davy/PA Images via Getty Images)

England player ratings live from Twickenham: The plain-speaking new boss Steve Borthwick said his game one was never going to be about performance frills. Winning was all that mattered to him to get his tenure off to a great start. Instead, the poor chap got the opposite – a performance entertaingly laced with plenty of English scores but no victory in a 23-29 defeat sealed by a sucker punch late converted Scotland try.

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Did you not feel entertained, though? England fans in the 81,545 home attendance couldn’t argue that their team didn’t play with a creative spark that was absent during the grim Autumn Nations Series that spelt the end for Eddie Jones. They more than played their part in a seven-try classic but serious questions will be asked about their defence and how they let this one get away from them.

Two Max Malins tries helped them to a defiant 13-12 comeback interval lead and when Ellis Genge finished to add England’s third for a 20-12 advantage with about a half-hour remaining, the Twickenham hordes were joyously roaring and all the indications were that the Borthwick era was about to get off to its desired winning start. It brutally didn’t, the hosts ‘losing’ the final 30 minutes by a 3-17 score.

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Here are the England player ratings after their fourth successive round-one loss in the Guinness Six Nations:

15. Freddie Steward – 6.5
Buoyed the crowd with an early sitdown of Sione Tuipulotu, but his neck roll was the game’s first penalty. Clocked up his usual big metres on the carry but the Scots asked questions of him defensively with a few tackles missed and an inability to bolt the door tight on the four-try visitors.

14. Max Malins – 8
Fell out of favour under Jones but was back with a potent bang here. He was set to be the star player with his two first-half tries, especially with his wonder grounding of the Marcus Smith crosskick. However, Duhan van der Merwe stole his scoring thunder with his Lomu-esque opener and he then also had the decisive say, Malins unable to halt the Scottish winger’s momentum for the result-changing late try.

13. Joe Marchant – 6
Picked to glide across the pitch as opposed to the bulk of Manu Tuilagi, that vision of him gliding didn’t include grasping at air around the halfway line when van der Merwe set off on that exhilarating, trip of a lifetime try-scoring gallop in the first half. Redeemed himself with the sprint that busted the Scottish cover for Malins’ second score. Toughed it out in the second half but was whipped off on 76 with his team irrevocably in arrears.

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12. Owen Farrell – 7
Named as Borthwick’s captain despite the noise for change, he needed to repay that faith but ultimately fell short. Missing in action when the Scots’ midfield combined for the first try with a kick in behind, but a fabulous tackle on the ball-fumbling Finn Russell was a highlight as was his role as stand-in out-half when manipulating the defence for England’s second try. Two missed conversions didn’t help the scoreboard. Neither did a bang with 20 minutes remaining.

11. Ollie Hassell-Collins – 5.5
The debut maker had a start to forget. Cajoled by a crowd fed up with a kicking exchange, it was his no-release when running possession back into the opposition half that gave Scotland the penalty and early England industry unrewarded with the visitors instead scoring off their first attack. The OHC bounced back, clocking up big metres in the carry and showing initiative to switch wings to try and get involved. Coach Borthwick claimed post-game he did well but ultimately the new man didn’t fully convince at this level.

10. Marcus Smith – 7.5
Needed a huge game now that Nick Evans, his Harlequins attack coach, is on the England staff and he played without his usual Jones leash on, mixing up what he did and providing the smart kicking assist for Malins’ opener. Crucially couldn’t goosestep into the corner on 59 when a try looked certain, and he then missed the key tackle on van der Merwe for the deciding try.

9. Jack van Poortvliet – 6.5
Another whose reputation was dented by South Africa in November, he began with a soft knock-on at a ruck but soon got into the groove. Unfortunately, there were a couple of more handling errors and a few missed tackles, leaving him hooked on 59.

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1. Ellis Genge – 8
Very busy in general play in ensuring England swung momentum back their way to lead at the break, although he can’t have been happy that a free and a penalty went against him in the first-half scrums. Continued to rise to the occasion in the second half, scoring with a textbook low carry finish, and although he exited spent of energy on 61, he was the England player who carried the most (18 times) and a standout operator.

2. Jamie George – 7
Had some issues at the lineout finding his target but his physicality and energy were important in getting England out in front before they lost their way down the finishing straight. Played the full 80, which was unusual for a hooker at Test level, especially one that had a concussion just a fortnight ago.

3. Kyle Sinckler – 7
Radiated energy. His ball carry figure was in double digits and he was credited with 40 metres when he left on 61 minutes with his team still in front and looking poised for a win. There will be some scrutiny of his overall set-piece play, though.

4. Maro Itoje – 6.5
Mixing lock with blindside wasn’t great for him in November but having a new boss who was a second row himself would surely help restore him to his very high standard. Not quite. There were some handling slips and a couple of penalties coughed up, including the one that allowed the Scots to get it back to 23-22. Clocked up a healthy tackle count, but didn’t decisively dominate. We want our real Maro back.

5. Ollie Chessum – 8
Put in the type of action-man shift that suggests Jonny Hill won’t be back in the team anytime soon. There was some reliable handling, a huge 50-plus metres tally in the carry and a high lineout count catch. Yet, will rue a sealing-off penalty nine minutes from time when England reached the Scottish 22 trying to build on their slender 23-22 advantage.

6. Lewis Ludlam – 7
Was asked by his coach to provide grit and determination and he did this plentifully, even giving Malins the passing assist for the second try and also latching onto Ben Curry on an important carry for the third. His effort wasn’t fully polished, though. For instance, he agonisingly couldn’t prevent Tuipulotu from getting the kick through for Scotland’s opener, while a flunked lineout catch in the visitors’ 22 in the second half was also annoying.

7. Ben Curry – 7
Was all set to have a huge mark in his just his second appearance at Test level, but then his inexperienced kicked in, the flanker failing to snuff out Ben White’s snipe around the side of a ruck for Scotland’s third try. Before that he had been largely excellent, carrying productively and tackling frequently. He only played 61 minutes but topped his team’s tackles-made chart. Troublingly, there were also too many missed.

8. Alex Dombrandt – 6.5
With Billy Vunipola axed from the squad and Sam Simmonds excluded from match day, the stage was set for him to start making the No8 jersey his and he didn’t. While the metres he made on the ball carry were second only to Ludlam of the starting pack, he endured a horrible first-half period when he missed the last-man tackle on the scoring van der Merwe and then fumble the ball twice. Showed guts to win a turnover penalty in his own 22 near the break, but was gone on 56.

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Replacements:
16. Jack Walker – No Rating
So much for it being a 23-man game, the uncapped player didn’t make it off the bench.

17. Mako Vunipola – 6.5
Big yardage when he carried in his 19-minute cameo.

18. Dan Cole – 6
It’s an amazing story that the veteran got back in the mix for the first time since the 2019 RWC final. Arrived on in the 61st minute and helped to win a scrum penalty with his first contribution.

19. Nick Isiekwe – 5.5
Packed down at back row during his appearance, but didn’t have much overall involvement.

20. Ben Earl – 6
Arrived on with 24 minutes left and the score at 20-19 for England. Made metres on most of his half-dozen carries but will rue two penalties, the last of which confirmed his team’s loss with Jamie Ritchie over him for the poach.

21. Ben Youngs – 5.5
Was on for 21 minutes and had a role in winning the penalty for the final England score, but ultimately he couldn’t wield his many years of experience to help keep his team in front when it mattered most.

22. Ollie Lawrence – N/R
Another Calcutta Cup for him to forget just like his start two years ago. Just four minutes was all he had on this occasion. A token cameo.

23. Anthony Watson – 5.5
Back after his long-term injury absence, he had 15 minutes for Hassell-Collins to no major effect.

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Comments

2 Comments
l
lot 496 days ago

how did dombrant get 6.5 with those school boy mistakes. and 8 for malin with poor defence? you can't cut it at test rugby if you cant defend. that why EJ marginalised these young players in prep for RWC. author must have bromance with these high score players. 😆

M
Mike 498 days ago

Giving high marks to props who cant cut it in the scrums is strange.

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