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How the 27 England players capped in the 2022 Autumn Nations rated

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Alex Davidson/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

England player ratings – Autumn Nations Series: Leaving Twickenham on Saturday night, the dominant takeaway was that Eddie Jones increasingly looks like a coach that has run out of ideas and has overstayed in the job. In isolation, he could perhaps credibly dust off a terrible November that featured just a single win in four games by saying he positively learned a thing or two that would help his team next year.

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However, Jones’ England have been strangled by inconsistency for far too long now and the chorus of boos that greeted the final whistle versus the Springboks was the damning true verdict as to where this team currently is – miles off where it needs to be ten months out from the next World Cup.

Poor starts used to be confined to games at the start of blocks of fixtures. Now they have become a first-half feature in the later matches where there should be no excuse for lethargy. Against New Zealand and South Africa, Jones got his tactics badly wrong and his team suffered. What chance Scotland can now carry on this damage when they next visit Twickenham in February? Every chance.

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Jones used 27 players – twelve backs and 15 forwards – across the four games, 23 as starters. Seven – Freddie Steward, skipper Owen Farrell, Marcus Smith, Kyle Sinckler, Jonny Hill, Maro Itoje and Tom Curry – started in every match while another five – Manu Tuilagi, Jack van Poortvliet, Ellis Genge, Luke Cowan-Dickie and Billy Vunipola – started three games and they each made a further appearance as a sub.

There was also the anomaly of a 28th player, Jack Singleton, benching for the opener versus Argentina but remaining unused.

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At least he got to tog out for a game, unlike 13 other players who were involved in the Monday/Tuesday training part of the week who never made it into a match day 23. Six – George Furbank, Cadan Murley, Will Joseph, Bevan Rodd, Sean Robinson and Hugh Tizard – were there at the start of all four weeks. It all suggests that Jones has quite a way to go before knowing his squad for France 2023, Here is how RugbyPass rates the contribution of all 27 capped England players in this year’s Autumn Nations Series:

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FULL-BACK (1)
Freddie Steward – 7.5
4 starts (360 mins): Played every single minute of the November series but what was set to be a whopping high mark was diluted by this Saturday, Steward’s worst performance in his short but stellar Test career. The multiple errors versus the Springboks will be good for him in the long run, a sharp reminder that not everything goes perfectly, but he seemed to be playing a different game in week four. For instance, he didn’t kick once in contrast to the 513 metres in the previous three weeks. What we really liked across the series was his five offloads. More of that but please shave that awful-looking tache.

Training squad: George Furbank (4 weeks)

WINGERS (4)
Jonny May – 3.5
3 starts (231 mins): We can’t help but feel he was rushed back after his serious Gloucester club injury down the road from Twickenham at London Irish on October 21. His play was bereft of the typical May sparkle, although England’s ball-depriving conservatism can’t have been a help. A yellow card against Japan didn’t help either.

Jack Nowell – 5
2 starts, 1 game sub (187 mins): His late cry-off through injury versus Japan stopped his series dead. Had been relatively busy against Japan, but was then anonymous versus New Zealand. No action came his way but Nowell had always been the sort to go and seek it out if that was the case in the past. There was no change-up, though, and the price was losing his spot versus the Springboks. His replacement Tommy Freeman was anonymous, so it suggests there potentially is a deep issue with England’s wide game. Threw caution to the wind when on at the break and reminder fans of his evasiveness by igniting the attack for Henry Slade’s try.

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Joe Cokanasiga – 4.5
2 starts (143 mins): A try scorer against Argentina and a late starter inclusion versus Japan after Nowell pulled up lame, Cokanasiga’s takeaway will be that his face doesn’t fit whenever Jones has all his wide men cards to pick from. Clocked 169 metres from 18 carries, with three offloads and a try assist thrown in for good measure, but ball protection was a general issue against the Japanese. There were knock-ons and turnovers, enough of an excuse for the coach to jettison him never mind him injuring his ankle. It then said a lot when Jones went with the lesser-experience Freeman in week four.

Tommy Freeman – 1.5
1 start (40 mins): It’s a brutally low mark but the fact of the matter is that while he must have been decent on the training ground to convince Jones to surprisingly introduce him against the Springboks, his only contribution was a couple of errors before he was whipped off at the break. That was tough Danny Care-like treatment and the youngster’s reaction will be interesting come the Six Nations.

Training squad: Cadan Murley (4 weeks), Max Malins (2), Adam Radwan (2)

MIDFIELDS (4)
Owen Farrell – 5.5
4 starts (360 mins): Another who played every single minute of the November programme, which in his case was quite a triumph as an ankle injury just before half-time in his centurion Test versus the All Blacks looked for a few minutes like the end of him. Farrell sums up the conundrum of this current England team. His inspired attitude can’t be faulted but the polish in his play just isn’t there and the question must be asked is his captaincy and his constant selection at inside centre the best situation going forward? Got very little change from his interactions with the referees, while his brilliance at out-half at Saracens makes you wonder if he is stunting the England midfield by only being considered there. Adding to the frustration was his two first-half penalty misses versus the Springboks.

Manu Tuilagi – 4
3 starts, 1 game as sub (230 mins): The sight of the injury-prone Tuilagi playing on all four weekends was a rare sight to behold, but did that constant selection finally unmask him as not being the powerhouse Test player he used to be? When he has been injured, the constant refrain had been ‘if only we had Manu’, but when he was there across November, he didn’t do anything on the ball that had you going ‘he’s the man’ while there were also a number of missed tackles. Henry Slade was England’s best midfielder, while Porter also impressed.

Guy Porter – 7.5
1 start, 1 game as sub (76 mins): A tidy player with an end product judging by his two tries when starting against Japan and also his contribution as a sub winger versus the All Blacks as his step inside was crucial in setting up the equalising converted try. It was a Tuilagi injury that first got Porter into the side for the Australian tour but Jones’ preference for brawn over brain counted against him this month with Tuilagi unusually fit all the way through. That said, his encouraging emergence has spelt the end for the France-bound Joe Marchant.

Henry Slade – 8
4 games as sub (77 mins): Jones has this nonsense about listing replacements on the England teamsheet as finishers but Slade was so consistently good every time he came off the bench, it left you scratching your head as to why he didn’t get a start to break up the Tuilagi/Farrell monopoly that the coach seems to be obsessed with. Slade’s minutes were packed with energy, so keen was he to remind everyone that he hasn’t gone away after missing the tour to Australia and still have the tools to shine brightly at this level. Some will question his handling errors versus the Springboks but it was a caution to the wind approach at that stage and he deserves credit for trying to shake it up.

Training squad: Will Joseph (4 weeks)

OUT-HALF (1)
Marcus Smith – 6.5
4 starts (300 mins): You would have thought the way Smith lit up Twickenham in the closing minutes against the All Blacks should have convinced Jones to give him more rope to play the Harlequins way against the Springboks. Instead, the coach had his playmaker roll out a far too restricted approach and the bluntness meant the team’s scoreboard bashing was deserved. For instance, Smith only made five passes on Saturday before his injury compared to 20 against the All Blacks as the focus was on booting the hell out of the ball, but why did England need to take on South Africa in the air in the first place? The tactic strangled England. When you have supreme talent like Smith, just go and play with the ball in hand.

SCRUM-HALVES (2)
Jack van Poortvliet – 7
3 starts, 1 game as sub (209 mins): Having come out of nowhere to break through on the recent Australian tour, the question was would it convince Jones to shake up his No9 approach? It initially didn’t, the coach favouring Youngs with the series-opening start against Argentina but the youngster’s snappy try off the bench in his first minute changed everything and he is now in possession of the shirt. There was a myriad of learnings from his testing sessions against the All Blacks and the Springboks, but he has the intelligence to wolf all that down and come back far better for the experience. Also encouraging was how he likes an offload and his knock of beating tackles when he goes for it. More please next February.

Ben Youngs – 5
1 start, 3 games as sub (111 mins): Was this the series that marked the beginning of the end of Youngs’ brilliant career at Test level? His club colleague JVP very much is the England future and the youngster also showed he is the here and now by getting way more starts and minutes. Youngs is now paying the price for the dull Jones approach in the past few years.

Training squad: Alex Mitchell (3 weeks), Raffi Quirke (1 week)

LOOSEHEADS (2)
Ellis Genge – 5.5
3 starts, 1 game as sub (208 mins): Something happened this past month to throw Genge off the very high standard he produced over the last year. His carry will always be tasty, and he was in excess of over 100 metres for his 20-plus possessions, but there was a dip in his set-piece precision and he can’t have been pleased that he was dropped for the Springboks match.

Mako Vunipola – 5
1 start, 3 games as sub (112 mins): No one can fault his contribution off the bench versus the All Blacks as his excellent defiance in the carry was pivotal in swinging momentum for England, but that type of ball-carrying was an anomaly for a prop who is usually more about the nuts and bolts of his position’s trade. That aspect didn’t go well against the All Blacks, though, suggesting it was the wrong call to start him. Still, deserves a pat on the back that he was involved given that it looked over for him this time last year when Jones gave his squad a makeover.

Training squad: Bevan Rodd (4 weeks), Val Rapava Ruskin (1 week)

HOOKERS (2)
Luke Cowan-Dickie – 5.5
3 starts, 1 game as sub (229 mins): Lethargic would be a fair description for his series, as his energy wasn’t the LCD we have come to know and very much respect. If he was flying he wouldn’t have lost out to Jamie George in round four but he did and his interval introduction off the bench had a painful outcome, his head the recipient of that ugly red-carded blow from Thomas du Toit. A set-piece review will be top of his post-autumn list.

Jamie George – 5
1 start, 2 games as sub (91 mins): Similar to Mako, his influence in upping the ante in a desperate situation against the All Blacks convinced Jones to start him versus the Springboks and it was the wrong call as he didn’t wield the necessary influence when he got his big chance.

Training squad: Jack Singleton (4 weeks, 1 game as unused sub), George McGuigan (1 week)

TIGHTHEADS (3)
Kyle Sinckler – 5
4 starts (240 mins): Remains clearly the clear first choice but he must question whether he is getting enough out of himself consistently. His appetite to get on the ball can’t be faulted – he was credited for 113 metres from 28 series carries, but in his specialist position it always comes back to the set-piece and England’s scrum wasn’t what it needed to be.

Will Stuart – 6
2 games as sub (60 mins): Eyebrows will be raised that he has a high rating than Sinckler for way less involvement but his two tries in seven minutes against the All Blacks was the stuff of Hollywood and needs to be recognised even though what he did against the Springboks was a contrasting comedown, an appearance that ended in the anguish of a cruel elbow injury.

Joe Heyes – 4.5
2 games as a sub (21 mins): Potential very much remains the keyword associated with the lovely-mannered 23-year-old Leicester tighthead. He was a short-lived replacement for the opening two games and didn’t contribute much before becoming surplus to requirement once Stuart pitched up fit. Needs to start pressing the accelerator if he is to compete on a more level playing field with his more established positional rivals otherwise his clear third-choice ranking won’t shift for quite some time.

SECOND ROWS (2)
Jonny Hill – 6.5
4 starts (285 mins): Was trucking along so well and then came the Springboks engine room to cause him marks-losing trouble. We are definitely Hill fans, enjoying the grittiness that he brings, while he also had hands that are useful for a decent carry here and there. He had consistency in performance across the majority of the series, something most of his teammates can’t say.

Dave Ribbans – 5.5
1 start, 2 games as sub (94 mins): Coach Jones has some weird ways of operating and keeping the lock unused on the bench against Argentina was a case in point. Stop harping on about rugby being a 23-player sport when you don’t clear your bench. Anyway, what we did eventually get to see from Ribbans were glimpses that he can durably hang around in this England squad. A pair of offloads against the All Blacks also demonstrated handling ability that must be encouraged.

Training squad: Sean Robinson (4 weeks), Hugh Tizard (4 weeks)

SECOND ROW/BLINDSIDE (2)
Maro Itoje – 6.5
4 starts (320 mins): His all-action first few minutes against the Springboks suggested he could be a dominant nuisance influence but he was eclipsed, the dubious statistic of zero metres from two attempted carries highlighting how he was a marked man. Itoje’s defiance had been a prime reason why England hung on against the All Blacks when they could have suffered a Springboks-like beating. It has to be said his best efforts came when started at lock. If you have something world-class in this sport, don’t shackle it by playing out of position, so please stop this Maro at blindside nonsense, Eddie.

Alex Coles – 5
2 start, 1 as sub (147 mins): Another in the JVP mould in the sense that he is a newcomer who will soak up the adversity of the last few weeks like a sponge and be the better for it. Thing is, Jones has the annoying habit of getting rid of new players soon after they have arrived on the scene and it wouldn’t be a surprise if Coles became the latest to be treated that way, especially if Courtney Lawes is fit and healthy in the new year.

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BACK ROWS (4)
Tom Curry – 7.5
4 starts (308 mins): Was very much the standout England back-rower and yet he ultimately hurt his team, his general warning yellow card costing ten points and allowing the Springboks to race ahead. That said, his series consistency was positive, Curry earning the title of tackle king with 55 while his all-court game is coming along as he nearly managed 100 metres in the carry while also chucking in a pile of picture-changing passes.

Billy Vunipola – 6.5
3 starts, 1 game as sub (211 mins): Emerged as his team’s main ball carrier, the ANS stats crediting him for 225 metres from 41 carries. Was that good enough to make a telling, world-class difference? We don’t think so as someone sharing the load would have been good. He became too obvious a target for the opposition despite this dedicated high work rate and his penalty trouble versus the All Blacks was a concern.

Sam Simmonds – 6
2 starts, 2 games as sub (194 mins):  Revelled in the carry against the Japanese and also had his good moments versus the All Blacks but Saturday was a different story against the Boks where their physicality was too much for him.

Jack Willis – 4.5
2 games as a sub (19 mins): This England series came at the wrong time for the back-rower as his preparations were plagued by the collapse of Wasps and he looked undercooked during his bench cameos against the Pumas and the Kiwis. At least he now has a club, having used his midweek exclusion for South Africa to head to France and bolt down his deal with Toulouse through to the end of this season.

Training squad: Tom Pearson (2 weeks)

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