England player ratings: ‘Brutal’ and ‘disruptive’ locks step up but Marcus Smith’s kicking woes denies visitors

Colin Newboult
Marcus Smith in action for England against All Blacks in 2024.

Marcus Smith in action for England against All Blacks in 2024.

Following a 16-15 defeat to the All Blacks in the international clash at the Forsyth Barr Stadium on Saturday, here are the player ratings for England.

15 George Furbank: Has proved himself over the last few internationals to be Test-match quality. We’re not sure Furbank had it in him but he was excellent on Saturday. Good on counter-attack and some great defensive work. 8

14 Immanuel Feyi-Waboso: Continued his impressive start at international level. Didn’t get a whole lot of chances to run but Feyi-Waboso scored a try and was very good in defence in a system where the wings are crucial. 6

13 Henry Slade: Not great with his passing but Slade grew into the game defensively, despite a few missed tackles. He could still be much better though. 5

Superb defensive effort

12 Ollie Lawrence: Didn’t get his hands on the ball much but Lawrence was immense without the ball, winning two turnovers and making a staggering 22 tackles. 7

11 Tommy Freeman: In contrast to Feyi-Waboso, Freeman had his issues without the ball. Some decent carries but there are improvements to be made. 5

10 Marcus Smith: Ultimately, those kicks were costly, while there was one errant decision in attack, but he still brought plenty to the game. Option-taking was good and he was absolutely central to Feyi-Waboso’s score. A mixed display but Smith deserves another shot. 6

9 Alex Mitchell: Has cemented his spot as England’s first choice scrum-half. A couple of mistakes early on but then Mitchell got into his rhythm and was impressive after that. 7

Planet Rugby player ratings key 10 - Career defining performance 9 - Outright blockbuster effort 8 - Significantly influenced the result of the game 7 - Committed and effective outing 6 - Flashes of brilliance outside of executing fundamentals 5 - Fulfilling the role required by position (base level) 4 - Poor execution of fundamentals 3 - Costly errors and/or discipline in the game 2 - Poor performance that directly impacted the result 1 - Grossly ineffective throughout 0 - Should have carried water instead

8 Ben Earl: Relentless on both sides of the ball, even if he didn’t make the ground he would have liked. 7

Big shots

7 Sam Underhill: Was a big part of England staying in the contest when the All Blacks were on top in the first half. Some heavy collisions stopped the hosts from gaining momentum. 7

6 Chandler Cunningham-South: Sometimes you can’t beat genetics and Cunningham-South is a big athletic man that runs over people, but his skills are also improving all the time. There are still some key areas the youngster has to work on, but he looks at home at this level. 7

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5 George Martin: The young lock is absolutely brutal in contact as Scott Barrett – and the unfortunate TJ Perenara – found out late on in the first half. Martin once again put himself about to excellent effect. 8

4 Maro Itoje: Looks back to his best on this evidence. A big display from the second-row, who was a disruptive presence in all facets. 8

Scrum struggles

3 Will Stuart: Really struggled in the scrum and didn’t offer a whole lot elsewhere. England are really struggling to sort out that tighthead position. 4

2 Jamie George (c): A couple of lineout issues and part of a scrum that was sent into reverse. George was fine in the loose and, as ever, he led well, but it was not his greatest day. 5

1 Joe Marler: Only lasted 20 minutes, but we’re not sure he would have made too much of a difference to the scrum as it was already creaking. 4

Replacements: A big learning curve for Fin Baxter, who was outstanding in all other facets but was ultimately dominated at the scrum. Theo Dan also did well but elsewhere the bench was poor. Alex Coles’ illegal tackle resulted in the All Blacks’ winning penalty while Ben Spencer and Fin Smith didn’t take control when they came on. 4

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