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England player ratings vs Wales | 2023 Summer Nations Series

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

England player ratings live from Principality Stadium: Thirty-five days before England open their Rugby World Cup pool campaign with the seismic clash versus Argentina in Marseille, Steve Borthwick was in Cardiff on Saturday seeking out the final evidence to be considered ahead of this Monday’s confirmation of the 33-strong squad he will take with him to the finals.


Fielding an XV containing just five starters from their last outing, the Guinness Six Nations loss to Ireland in Dublin 20 weeks ago, this opening warm-up match ahead of next month’s tournament was nearly all about the head coach’s fringe cast.

Not just the impact of the likes of starting newcomer Tom Pearson, inexperienced options such as Guy Porter, Jamie Blamire, George Martin and David Ribbans, along with more known but in-and-out campaigners in the guise of Joe Cokanasiga and Joe Marchant.

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England World Cup kit

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England World Cup kit

There was plenty of focus too on the Harlequins eight, nine, 10 spine and whether it could collectively impress at Test level. Marcus Smith and Alex Dombrandt both had their issues impressing at this level during 2022/23, so could the linking presence of Danny Care at scrum-half make a tangible difference on a roof-closed dry track? Read on below for the damaging player-by-player verdict.

As for the result, England had gutsed out a 20-10 Six Nations win here six months ago on a roof-open spring day and although now protected from the gusty Storm Antoni swirling outside, this display was also about showing guts.

Points Flow Chart

Wales win +11
Time in lead
Mins in lead
% Of Game In Lead
Possession Last 10 min
Points Last 10 min

Three scrum penalties won by Will Stuart gave Smith three kicks for a 9-6 interval lead, but too many handling errors and turnovers left England tryless and vulnerable and they were suckered by second-half Welsh tries from Gareth Davies and George North and couldn’t remedy the damage that had them 9-20 in arrears and their momentum in the scrum extinguished.

If this was a Six Nations match, there would rightly be bloody hell to pay for the damning two-try second-half collapse, but World Cup warm-ups are about trying to find positives and spin them. This Borthwick certainly did in the immediate aftermath, insisting his team will sharpen up in the coming weeks. They sure need to. Here are the England player ratings following a dreadful second half to forget:


15. Freddie Steward – 6.5
Wrongly red-carded on his last England appearance, he quickly showed his class with an impactful start, taking a supreme aerial catch in his own half and then, in another involvement, demonstrating slick feet to burst through the Welsh cover near halfway. His second-half defence will come in for some scrutiny, though, an issue capped by Louis Rees-Zammit beating him in a kick chase to nearly score.

14. Max Malins – 5
Back in favour for now after getting axed post the French humiliation, he twice teased with his threat in the opposition’s 22 in the first half, but there was no end product at the line and his display became undone by coughing up too many turnovers.

13. Joe Marchant – 6.5
A possible last hurrah at Test level for the Stade Francais-bound midfielder, he stuck his hand up for RWC selection with some deft first-half running off Smith’s shoulder after starting encouragingly with a penalty-winning ruck turnover. Far less composed and effective in the second period.

12. Guy Porter – 5
His first match under Borthwick having broken through last year under Eddie Jones, he was the quietest of the starting England backs and looked to have run out of World Cup selection road.


11. Joe Cokanasiga – 5.5
Endured years of frustration to get back to this point, being fully fit and poised to impress again at Test level. He clocked up some decent first-half metres on the carry but won’t want to be reminded of his missed tackle in the game-changing Davies try which could cost him RWC selection.

10. Marcus Smith – 5.5
Had just a measly one-play 30 seconds here last February and was described as England’s third option at 10 in the build-up to this outing even though sub George Ford hadn’t been capped in a year and a half. Landed three first-half penalties and grew in confidence as the half developed, testing his running game and asking the Welsh rearguard some questions when linking with Marchant. Suffered in the second half, however, a poor knock-on in the Welsh 22 highlighting the growing inaccuracy in the general England play and he was pulled with them losing 9-20. He will be glad of the safety net that was Borthwick stating on Thursday he would take three out-halves.

9. Danny Care – 5.5
Viewed as the missing link capable of getting the best from the muddled Smith-Dombrandt Test-game connection, it took him a while to get into the swing. For instance, it was his offside that gave Wales their first penalty points but his kicked exits and passing were decent bar one sloppy shovel near halfway. His second half, though, was forgettable. Was at fault on the crosskick for getting knocked over by the catching and offloading Aaron Wainwright and was promptly substituted.

1. Ellis Genge – 5.5
The skipper carried and tackled hard in the opening period and also showed his eye for giving a pass. Was up against a new cap at the scrum, but it was on the other side where the damage was inflicted on Wales in the first half. His own scrummaging was caught out in the second period, though, and he didn’t show the leadership to help keep England focused when in deep trouble. Gone on 69 for Bevan Rodd.

2. Jamie Blamire – 5
Another of the fringe who needed to post a sharp reminder about his credentials, he had first-half difficulties such as getting stuck at a penalty conceding ruck, missing a tackle on the breaking Rees-Zammit and then missing his target at the lineout near the Welsh line at six-all. It wasn’t all bad for the hooker but he exited on 54.

3. Will Stuart – 7.5
The fit-again prop, who scored two tries in a few minutes off the bench against the All Blacks in November, was also up against a new cap at the scrum and he did the damage to win three kicked penalties while he also showed agility in tidying up a sloppy Care pass. Exited on 54, though, with England losing. Did well for the most part.

4. David Ribbans – 5
Like Marchant, he will be ineligible for Test selection once he starts playing in France with Toulon and this might have been his final appearance. His hands were poor when fluffing an attempted catch on the burst in the 22 off a Malins break. Gone on 46 for a HIA and didn’t return.

5. George Martin – 7.5
Was at fault for the first of the handling errors that hindered early England momentum, but his work rate on both sides of the ball was massive in getting his team into a three-point interval lead. Borthwick has been waiting on Martin’s lock/blindside rival Ollie Chessum to get fit after his March operation but Martin suggested he would be no slouch if he is picked instead.

6. Lewis Ludlam – 6
Busy first half, an enterprise that included one lengthy break into the 22. However, he faded along with his pack in the second period.

7. Tom Pearson – 6
Huge evening for the newly capped youngster. Started energetically and was industrious in the opening period but he was at fault for the offside that allowed Wales to get to six-all and then was left absorbing numerous lessons in the second half. Shouldn’t be picked ahead of Ben Earl for RWC but you never know with Borthwick given his treatment of the Saracens player in the Six Nations and also how he cut loose Sam Underhill last month.

8. Alex Dombrandt – 5.5
Started all five matches in the Six Nations without convincing he has the weapons to make this spot his own and his quiet opening was a continuation of that. Went on to enjoy a purple patch after the half-hour mark with some excellent carrying but then faded again and was pulled on 54 minutes for the debut-making Willis. A fit Billy Vunipola is needed quickly.

22m Entries

Avg. Points Scored
Avg. Points Scored

16. Theo Dan – 5.5
Left us intrigued to see more after a compelling near-70 minutes off the bench for Saracens, his Test debut began on 54 minutes and it was largely all backfoot involvement.

17. Bevan Rodd – No rating
Mako Vunipola’s fitness situation levered him back in the mix after he was dumped last month, but he was given just 11 minutes here with the result already decided.

18. Kyle Sinckler – 5.5
Sent on 14 minutes in the second half to try and provide energy to head off Welsh momentum but it didn’t happen for him.

19. Jonny Hill – 5.5
A first outing under Borthwick for this Jones favourite who was cast aside in the spring, he arrived in on 46 minutes but couldn’t stem the growing Welsh tide. Another who will fear Monday’s numbers game.

20. Tom Willis – 5
The third England Test debut on the day, he was sent on for Dombrandt with 26 minutes remaining. Another player for the future rather than getting RWC selection.

21. Jack van Poortvliet – 4.5
Handed the interesting challenge of coming on with England behind and couldn’t make a telling difference after the poor start that was him getting stepped by North for the second Wales try.

22. George Ford – 4.5
Had ample time to help rescue England in his first run since March 2022 but failed to wield enough control.

23. Henry Slade – No rating
Given a late run for Cokanasiga.


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1 Comment
Leo 319 days ago

Sam Underhill is a much-needed defender if England is to thrive

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