PLAYER RATINGS: The Italian job
OPINION: England got their 2018 Six Nations campaign underway with a resounding away win in Rome, although they were made to work hard for 60 minutes by an Italian side that was not afraid to play against the reining champions.
Anthony Watson and Sam Simmonds both bagged braces, playmaker duo George Ford and Owen Farrell also crossed the whitewash, as did replacement Jack Nowell, in a 46-15 victory over the Azzurri.
We've rated the 23 Englishman on show today, but do you agree?
15 Mike Brown:
Not quite the ultra-reliable performance Brown would have wanted coming back from a slight injury. He bobbled a kick early on, committed a high tackle and isolated himself on one attack, gifting Italy a turnover. On the other hand, he did well to avoid being isolated on an Italian kick deep into English territory, as well as running a nice decoy to help set up England’s first try.
14 Anthony Watson:
Showed good speed and footwork to finish two flowing moves with tries out wide and covered well in defence. Drifted out of the game a little in the second half, but he did the damage in the first 40 and looked safe defensively throughout, including at full-back, when Nowell replaced Brown for the final quarter.
13 Ben Te’o:
Provided the England midfield with a go forward that it has lacked at times with Jonathan Joseph, running hard against the grain and drawing defenders in to stop him. It was pivotal in Watson’s first try, whilst his defence was also solid, making the right decisions and completing three important one-on-one tackles when he blitzed out of the line.
12 Owen Farrell:
A couple of early missed kicks at goal – albeit from right out on the touchline – and an intercept pass mitigated an otherwise impressive performance. Made breaks, zipped passes to runners going through holes and defended well with an unfamiliar man outside of him.
11 Jonny May:
An up and down game from May. The Leicester flyer found himself exposed for Tommaso Benvenuti’s try when he bit on a pass, not trusting his inside defender and then compounded the error immediately after, tackling a player in the air on the restart. He did look for plenty of work in the midfield, however, adding plenty to the England attack and setting up Watson’s second try.
10 George Ford:
Looked in fine form in his first game of the championship, mixing up his passing on the gain-line and keeping an England back line ticking over that looked like a constant threat in Rome. Linked up excellently with Farrell and bagged a deserved try in the second half.
9 Ben Youngs:
Unfortunately, a nasty looking knee injury saw Youngs leave the field early, before he was able to really influence the game.
Not enough time to be rated
8 Sam Simmonds:
Soaked up pressure well in the first half, leading England’s tackle count and chopping down some of the more powerful Italian carriers with efficiency. Got more of an opportunity to show his carrying threat in the second half and took both his tries well, leaving the Italian defence for dead with his acceleration and leg drive through tackles.
7 Chris Robshaw:
A solid, nuts and bolts performance from England’s elder statesman in the back-row. Tackled his guts out with Sam Simmonds in the first half and helped England weather the powerplays that Italy brought throughout the first 60 minutes.
6 Courtney Lawes:
A busy, industrious performance from the Northampton man, with the flank impressing particularly with his defence on the gain-line and his high-flying lineout work. Consistently drew Italian defenders to him at the lineout and set up Sam Simmonds’ first try – and the bonus point for England – with a quick transfer at the set-piece.
5 Maro Itoje:
Didn’t quite influence the game as a carrier as much as he would have liked, but more than made up for that with his powerful defence and versatile work at the lineout. Began to float wider as the game went on and that should be something to watch as the tournament goes on.
4 Joe Launchbury:
Carried strongly early on and helped make up for England’s missing ball-carriers but did drift out of the game as it went on. It certainly wasn’t a substandard performance from Launchbury, but he didn’t quite match the impact that fellow rear five forwards Maro Itoje and Courtney Lawes produced.
3 Dan Cole:
Scrummaged well in both halves and saw off Andrea Lovotti in the first, as well as proving energetic with the ball in the hand. Along with Vunipola, showed skilful hands and contributed to the high-tempo game England tried to play.
2 Dylan Hartley:
The captain nailed all 11 of his lineout throws, laying a foundation which England were able to attack off and two of his side’s four tries whilst he was on the pitch resulted directly from the set-piece. Tackled and carried well, too.
1 Mako Vunipola:
Provided a solid anchor to the scrum as Dan Cole went to work on the opposite side and helped make up for his brother’s absence with strong carries around the fringe and good link play.
16 Jamie George:
Underthrew one lineout, but otherwise beavered away industriously.
17 Alec Hepburn:
Came on for his debut with less than 10 minutes left to play and didn’t really have an opportunity to influence the match.
Not enough time to be rated.
18 Harry Williams:
Continued Cole’s scrummaging dominance and ran hard with ball-in-hand.
19 George Kruis:
Continued from where Lawes left off, doing what was required of him without overplaying his hand.
20 Sam Underhill:
Little time to impress after replacing Robshaw but made no noticeable errors.
21 Danny Care:
Ran the show well after Youngs was forced from the field with a knee injury. Might be a little disappointed to not put a real marker down with the extended playing time but should still be England’s starter if the injury to Youngs is significant.
22 Jonathan Joseph:
Looked dangerous after replacing Te’o and made a couple of jinking runs that almost ended in English tries. There was no lark of sharpness after sitting on the bench for 60 minutes.
23 Jack Nowell:
Grabbed a late try but also looked threatening in two or three other occasions, where his fast footwork left Italian defenders grasping at thin air.