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England player ratings vs Tonga - Autumn International Series

By Paul Smith
Ben Youngs scores his side's fifth try despite the attentions of Sonatane Takulua of Tonga (Photo by Craig Mercer/MB Media/Getty Images)

England began the Autumn Series with the 69-3 demolition of Tonga at raucous Twickenham.


After a disappointing 2021 Six Nations and with established names away with the Lions, head coach Eddie Jones blooded plenty of new faces during England’s summer tour.

Of those who impressed in North America, full-back Freddie Steward and winger Adam Radwan both retained starting roles against Tonga. In addition, after Owen Farrell’s late COVID-19 withdrawal, Northampton’s George Furbank was handed a first outing in England’s no.10 shirt.

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Dave Rennie Wallaby press conference
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Dave Rennie Wallaby press conference

This also presented Courtney Lawes with the opportunity to captain his country for the first time, 12 years after winning the first of his 87 England caps.

With this match inside World Rugby’s international window, a number of Tonga’s French-based players returned to the fold, with England boss Eddie Jones in particular singling out props Siegfried Fisi’ihoi and Ben Tameifuna as dangerous figures.

The last time the sides met England claimed a 35-3 win in the pool stages of the 2019 World Cup.


Showed great confidence under the high ball then in looking to escape in-goal following Takalua’s missed first-half penalty. The Leicester fill back’s superbly timed pass released Jonny May to the corner and was typical of the attacking threat he posed throughout. Steward won’t enjoy seeing the replay of Telusa Veainu tieing him in knots following his long-distance interception.

Radwan combined sweetly with Jonny May to nearly create a second minute opener then scored with his next touch a minute later. Secure under the high ball when required and busy around the field.

13 HENRY SLADE – 8.5
The Exeter centre took more playmaking responsibility in the absence of Farrell, often appearing at first receiver. A nice first-half break was ended by an over-ambitious out-the-back offload which found Manu Tuilagi’s feet before he later created Marcus Smith’s try with a brilliant break from inside his own 22. On a less positive note, Slade was picked off by Veainu who then skated 65 meres before being dispossessed by a remarkable Courtney Lawes cover tackle. His first attempt as England’s goal-kicker brought mixed results – but it hardly mattered.


Made an important defensive interception when Tonga escaped round the fringes early on. His powerful break then set up the position from which Jonny May claimed England’s third try. Showed good pace at the start of the second half to charge deep into Tonga’s 22 before getting to his feet to make a recovery tackle when the attack broke down. A pleasing return to international rugby – England certainly look a different proposition with Tuilagi in midfield.

11 JONNY MAY – 8.5
Started well with a good kick chase and recovery in the opening seconds which he later repeated to win the penalty which also saw Solomone Kata sin-binned for an illegal aerial challenge. Nicely checked his opposite number before skating to the try-line to claim England’s third score. Showed real appetite for work and thoroughly deserved his second try from a set move following a lineout.

Having only previously made five Northampton starts at fly half, Furbank showed his play-making abilities with some lovely handling and by mixing his options intelligently. One superb scything first-half break got the crowd on their feet and won a penalty deep in the Tonga 22. Replaced by Marcus Smith with 30 minutes remaining having delivered a promising first display at no.10.

Reminded everyone that his eye for a gap is as acute as ever when creating and finishing a blindside try on the stroke of half-time. The veteran no.9 then picked Vailanu’s pocket and raced 60 metres to claim a second score early in the second half. Less pleasingly Youngs was swatted off by Sione Vailanu at the base to initate Tonga’s best first-half attack. Box kicked less regularly than of late, but generally with good length and accuracy.

Showed an impressive turn of foot to break tackles and release Maro Itoje to the line for England’s fourth try. Scrummaged strongly and maintained an impressive work-rate in the close-quarter areas.

Delivered the perfect response to being dropped by first forcing his way past the other squad hookers to claim the starting role then scoring England’s second try in the 13th minute. Threw perfectly – England’s lineout had an 18-from-18 return when he left the action. A prominent display in the loose saw him have a hand in a couple of England tries, most notably when releasing Ben Youngs down the blindside for England’s fifth touchdown. Rounded things off by steering a lineout drive to the line to claim his second try ten minutes from time.

Penalised at England’s first scrum put-in but was then part of a front row which was clearly on top by the time the usual flood of changes happened around the hour mark. Delivered some nice touches with ball in hand – notably a ‘no-look’ pass to Genge early in the second half.

4 MARO ITOJE – 7.5
Got himself on Genge’s shoulder and had the leg power for force his way over the line then the upper-body strength to get the ball down. As ever the Saracens lock got through piles of work in the loose, made a high tackle count and a huge nuisance of himself when disrupting Tongan mauls.

Won’t enjoy seeing the video of Vailanu stepping inside him in the guard position early in the contest or giving away a soft offside penalty within kicking range when lurking in midfield. Stole a Tongan throw with good mobility and a well-timed leap.

Led from the front with ball in hand and in a typically powerful close-range mauling and tackling display. His show-reel moment came towards the end of the first half when the veteran Saint tracked back 70 metres to pull off a remarkable cover tackle that denied Veainu a spectacular interception try.

Flew into early tackles setting the tone for his team’s defensive line speed. Put in a typically robust shift before leaving the fray at half-time following a head knock.

8 TOM CURRY – 6.5
Correctly pinged for blocking Tonga’s kick chase to give Tonga their opening score. Moved to his usual club position on the openside flank at half-time and was immediately penalised for offside when leaving a scrum early. A typically hard-working contribution from the Sale back-rower who finished the afternoon as England captain.

Marcus Smith ran the show against a tiring Tongan defence which gave him acres in which to operate, especially when reduced to 14 men. Alex Dombrandt also caught the eye with ball in hand in the fourth quarter while Jamie Blamire and Alex Mitchell got their names on the scoresheet.


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