How the 29 England players capped in the 2022 Six Nations rated
Collectively, the Guinness Six Nations campaign was a best-forgotten endeavour for England as they managed just two wins from five matches for the second successive season. These results ignited a fire around Eddie Jones that quickly became an inferno with the RFU giving him a bizarre vote of confidence last Sunday, claiming they were somehow satisfied with the level of progress that had been made.
It beggared belief. As a team, this RFU allegation doesn’t stand up to scrutiny and a most damning statistic to emerge from the 2022 championship was how scoring just eight tries was the worst by England in the Six Nations since the record low of a paltry five in 2013.
There was some encouragement on an individual basis, however, in a tournament where Jones sent 29 players – eleven backs and 18 forwards – into action (it would have been 30 had Nic Dolly not been an unused sub in Paris).
Fifteen players played some part in all five matches, a figure that would have been 17 had Harry Randall and George Ford not been unused subs against Scotland and Wales respectively, while five players – Freddie Steward, Henry Slade, Marcus Smith, Ellis Genge and Maro Itoje – started all five games. Two – Slade and Itoje – were present for every single minute of the 400, with Steward missing out by going off just before the end of the Ireland loss.
Twenty-four players – ten backs and 14 forwards – started at least one match with the other five consigned to a bench role only during the championship. Here is how RugbyPass has rated the contribution of all 29 England players in this year’s Six Nations:
Freddie Steward – 9.5
A class England act whose delight on a personal level following his first Six Nations campaign is perfectly encapsulated in his guest appearance on this week’s RugbyPass Offload show. The 21-year-old was a joy to watch during his 399 minutes. Commanding under the high ball, he also illustrated versatility when curiously chosen on the wing versus France where he grabbed a decent try. His 46 carries across the five matches was the most by any England player and his 491 metres was the third-highest of anyone in the tournament. A real gem of a player who has the talent to dominate this position for the next decade.
George Furbank – 5
Came from nowhere to land a shock start last weekend away to France 17 months after he had last worn the No15 England jersey. Jones had since invested in his versatility by indulging him as an emergency out-half, namely his start last November against Tonga, so to see him thrust into the full-back role again was a major surprise. Admittedly, less nervous in that position now at the age of 25 than before but he is way behind Steward.
Max Malins – 6
A starter in the opening four matches, playing 319 minutes, and yet when it came to the shakedown after a record loss to Ireland that had a zero-four try-count, it was the winger who paid the heaviest price as he was axed from the 28 that travelled to Paris due to Jones’ hang-up about the French kicking game. That omission suggests he had a poor campaign but some of his stats hinted otherwise. He was England’s busiest offloader, his five being two more than the next-best of Sam Simmonds, Smith and Randall on three, and he also broke seven tackles. However, there were five handling errors and a lingering feeling that the more explosive pace of Adam Radwan might have been a better pick in at least one of the games.
Jack Nowell – 6.5
One of the heart-warming stories of the England Six Nations from the perspective that he hadn’t been involved since October 2019 due to repeated injury. However, despite five appearances – four starts and that dubious minute off the Murrayfield bench when the match had come down to that messy scrum resets period – he didn’t hit top form in a handbrake-on effort that featured an early concussion in Rome and another early exit in Paris. Best remembered for packing down as a flanker in the England scrum that was minus the red-carded Charlie Ewels versus Ireland.
Joe Marchant – 6.5
Like Nowell, he started four times and made another appearance off the bench. However, unlike Nowell, who seemed to be an operator trusted by Jones, Marchant has more road to travel to be viewed as a regular first-teamer. Look at how the England coach sent him back to Harlequins after Six Nations starts versus Scotland and Italy because Manu Tulagi had pitched up fit. It must have played with his head to then get a call to return and sit on the bench against Wales when Tuilagi pulled out just hours after selection. As it was, Marchant started three times at No13 – his best position – and it was his break that sparked last weekend’s England try. He broke six tackles in total in the tournament, joint second-best along with Dombrandt and Simmonds, but is most remembered for the missed tackle while playing on the wing that contributed heavily to Scotland’s try.
Elliot Daly – 6
Another whose positional flexibility seemed to hinder rather than coax the best from him. Yes, he managed five appearances, but just two were as a starter and unfortunately, he didn’t convince that he is the real deal as a Test level No13.
Henry Slade – 7
A starter at inside centre in all five matches, he played every single minute. While you can’t fault his effort, he must be involved in the post-mortem over why the England attack didn’t fire as promised by new assistant Martin Gleeson. Slade had the ball in his hands on 83 occasions but standout moments were fleeting. He also kicked the ball for 406 metres, an illustration of how his boot is a huge factor in England’s thinking.
Marcus Smith – 7.5
The youngster finished his debut Six Nations as the tournament’s top scorer with 71 points, 17 more than Melvyn Jaminet of France. He scored two tries, made 408 metres from 40 carries, made 129 passes and broke ten tackles – and yet the lingering feeling was that he was forced to play with a straight jacket on due to the limited way England looked to attack. We know from the way he plays at Harlequins that he has so much more in him if only he was allowed to play that way for England. His tournament will be remembered for how he was subbed with 17 minutes remaining at Murrayfield, a rash decision that prompted a match-losing collapse.
— Guinness Six Nations (@SixNationsRugby) March 19, 2022
George Ford – 4
The low rating is no reflection on Ford’s talent – he is still a wonderful player and his form this season at Leicester has been magnificent. But in an England context, he was the fringe of the fringe, making four sub appearances but having no real part to play after things went wrong collectively in the end-game in Scotland.
Ben Youngs – 6.5
It was odd how he went from playing the entire opening round match to suddenly not being the flavour of the month with Jones, subbing on three occasions and then coming back into fashion when more kicking was needed away to France. Finished as the tournament’s fifth-highest passer, his tally of 169 being seven more passes than Randall. It was fantastic to see him become his country’s most capped player ever during the tournament but his style of play isn’t the future if England really want to finesse their attack and get Smith orchestrating as he does with Harlequins.
Harry Randall – 6.5
You’d never have believed after he was left rooted to the bench in Edinburgh as an unused sub that he would go on to start three games in a row before dropping back to the replacements again last weekend. His type of fearless high tempo is what England need to quicken things up and become a major threat again but it appeared as if he couldn’t stray from the restrictive blueprint. He kicked for 577 metres, which says it all about what he was instructed to do.
Ellis Genge 8.5
What’s not to love about Gengey? Well, his penalty count might be an issue as he finished the Six Nations as the most penalised player of the entire tournament in conceding eight penalties. However, with six infringements happening at the scrum, it’s a technical issue that needs improving, not his general behaviour which has been fabulous these past few months. The vice-captaincy has taken him to a new level and so too has his work rate. Look at how he managed 44 tackles in his five starts. An infectious character whose enthusiasm can only be good for England.
Joe Marler – 5
Judging by the interviews he gave during the tournament, he seems to have accepted that Genge is the clear first-choice which is a pity as bench players should always be aspiring to have the starting jersey. The standout moment in his five appearances as a sub was sadly a dubious incident, Marler botching that infamous lineout at Murrayfield that gave Scotland the scrum that led to their lead-taking penalty.
Luke Cowan-Dickie – 5.5
Having missed out on the autumn series, this was supposed to be the Six Nations where the 2021 Test series Lions player would nail down first-choice England status but that didn’t happen as there were just three appearances, two as a starter. It was his yellow carding for deliberately flapping the ball into touch that cost his team the penalty try in Scotland and his effort to make amends when starting against Wales was cut short by that significant knee injury.
Jamie George 7.5
Has been a man on a mission since Jones axed him from the squad last October. Came into the Six Nations behind Cowan-Dickie but his form reflected well despite his starts in the latter games coming after his rival was ruled out with injury. He was in the mood, for sure. Look at his wind up of the Welsh, yet it must annoy him that a 68th-minute lineout on the 22 with 14-man England just three points behind Ireland was crucially picked off and a possible heroic win became a record beating.
Jamie Blamire – No Rating
Played just a single minute versus Ireland and was then cut from the squad for the match in France where Dolly was an unused sub. Didn’t build on the promise seen in November.
Kyle Sinckler – 6.5
A difficult campaign for the prop. He was twice a sub on top of three starts, a situation that wasn’t helped by a back injury restricting his training and then the concussion suffered versus Ireland. He conceded six penalties but with just one happening at the scrum, it suggests his play needs tidying up in other areas.
Will Stuart – 5.5
Enjoyed a pile of minutes in starting twice and making three appearances off the bench, but has that increased exposure taken him any closer to eclipsing Sinckler in the fight for the jersey if both players are fully fit and raring to go? You’d have to say not really, unfortunately.
Maro Itoje – 8.5
A most pivotal England player, yet the number on his back kept changing from four to six to five and back to four again. He won six turnovers and was an all-round nuisance, as showcased in the cloak and dagger that created the try for Dombrandt against Wales and when firing-up 14-man England in that comeback that got them level at 15-all with Ireland. Won 23 lineouts overall but what deteriorated from his game was five handling errors and the concession of seven penalties – quite a chunk when you realise England only conceded 51 all tournament.
Nick Isiekwe – 7
Fair play to the Saracens lock. Many players would never have rebounded from getting hooked the way he did by Jones in South Africa in 2018 but he dusted himself off and it was quite an achievement for him to make four appearances in the Six Nations, three as an England starter in a tournament where Jonny Hill was absent through injury. His winning of 16 lineouts was the sixth-highest total any player and he showed he can roll with the punches, overcoming his Ireland omission to get back in versus France. Well played.
Charlie Ewels – 3
Made four appearances, three as a starter, but any merit in what he did was wiped out by that needless red card against Ireland after 82 seconds. He is clocking up the caps under Jones but this exposure hasn’t at all equated to convincing he should be a nailed-on starter.
Ollie Chessum – 6
It was lovely to see the youngster getting off the bench in Rome to make his Test debut and pleasing that he is no longer one of so many English players stuck on one cap as he also got 18 minutes in France. His lock/flanker flexibility was what caught Jones’ eye. One to watch for the future.
Joe Launchbury – 4
As with Ford, the low rating isn’t a reflection of his ability. It was brilliant that he fought his way back from that awful ACL to get back in the Test mix, but his 14-minute run off the bench versus Ireland was a best-forgotten cameo and he was left out of the reckoning the following week in Paris.
Lewis Ludlam – 5.5
A surprise to start against Scotland as you had to go back two years to his previous England start – again versus the Scots in the Six Nations. Would have left the field at Murrayfield with his head held high as England were in control but that good work ultimately counted for nought and his campaign was soon over when a rib cartilage injury was diagnosed.
Tom Curry – 6.5
A new Test level skipper in the opening two matches, he will have learned much from the baptism of fire that was the capitulation at Murrayfield. Was credited with making five dominant tackles during the tournament but his contribution was hampered by a concussion versus Wales and that campaign-ending hamstring injury versus Ireland.
Sam Simmonds – 7
Not since 2018 has Simmonds been involved in the Six Nations but he showed his value, especially as regards tackling as he clocked up 52 across the course of his three starts and two sub appearances. The thing to note about his international return, though, is scoring tries is a heck of a lot harder than in the Premiership with Exeter. He’s still waiting for a Test score after seven caps this season.
Alex Dombrandt – 8
Only started twice compared to Simmonds but had more of an all-round impact, making 281 metres from 42 carries to be in twelfth place on the overall tournament ball carrier list despite having a covid layoff. Showed bags of potential in his five appearances and one of his two stolen lineouts saw him score the crucial try versus Wales.
Courtney Lawes 7.5
The skipper was badly missed in the opening rounds before he returned to play the full 80 in the closing three matches. Tackling was his forte as he put in 39 and while Jones remained adamant his best position was at blindside, his assistance to the England scrum when packing down at second row behind Genge with Itoje shifted to the tighthead side versus Ireland was invaluable. A debate is needed about putting him in there again.
Sam Underhill – 5.5
Given the dark place he was in during January following his latest concussion, it was quite a triumph for him to work his way back to fitness and come back into Jones’ thinking just as Curry was ruled out injured. Was decent against France, giving a glimpse of what England had missed, but one game doesn’t make for a high championship rating.
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