Marcus Smith shines as impressive England put 50 past Japan in Tokyo

Planet Rugby
Marcus Smith England v Japan RWC 2023 - Alamy.jpg

England fly-half Marcus Smith.

England proved too strong for Japan in their mid-year international in Tokyo on Saturday as they sealed a 52-17 victory, with Marcus Smith leading the way with a fine individual performance.

As the scoreline suggests, England were full value for their win as they outscored their hosts by eight tries to two with Smith, Chandler Cunningham-South, Immanuel Feyi-Waboso, Henry Slade, Alex Mitchell, Ben Earl, Harry Randall and Sam Underhill all crossing the whitewash for the visitors.

Smith added four conversions while Slade also succeeded with a couple of two-pointers off the kicking tee.

For the Brave Blossoms, Koga Nezuka and Samisoni Tua scored tries which were both converted by Rikiya Matsuda while Seungsin Lee slotted a penalty.

Click here for scorers

Despite a fine all-round performance from the Red Rose, their victory was soured somewhat when Charlie Ewels was sent off for a dangerous hit on Michael Leitch in the game’s latter stages. Ewels initially received a yellow card but it was upgraded to red upon review.

He became the nation’s first player to be sent off twice following his dismissal in his last international against Ireland two years ago.

A pleasing performance saw Steve Borthwick’s men pick up where they left off in the Six Nations by playing smart and ambitious rugby that was well executed, particularly close to the whitewash.

Smith was at the heart of the enterprise shown, justifying his selection ahead of Fin Smith by orchestrating play intelligently until he was replaced having been shown a yellow card in the 55th minute.

Tougher challenges lie ahead on tour in the form of two Tests against New Zealand, who will give Smith far less room to work his magic than an accommodating Japan defence, but the Harlequins fly-half pointed to a future that does not include George Ford and Owen Farrell.

Borthwick will have taken satisfaction from winning his personal duel with Eddie Jones, his former boss with England and Japan.

There was early evidence of the humidity that England had trained for as the ball squirted out of the hands of both sides, but Japan made the faster start that was rewarded with a penalty from fly-half Lee.

The tourists’ first meaningful attack produced a try, however, as a series of pick and goes underlined the greater carrying power of their forwards until the excellent Cunningham-South muscled over with help from Earl.

Tom Curry had to have hip ‘stitched back together’ after ‘extensive damage’ done, surgeon reveals

A slick line-out move that saw Jamie George find Ollie Lawrence with a long throw ended when Smith ghosted through the midfield to score and the Harlequin then turned provider with a long pass for Feyi-Waboso.

Smith was at the heart of England’s growing control of the game, also catching the eye with a 50-22, and pleasingly for Borthwick every visit to the 22 saw their lead increase.

His vision sent a leaping Slade over via a crossfield kick in another clinical finish and the second half was only two minutes old when Mitchell exploited a gap around the ruck to glide over.

Japan launched a rare attack that was foiled by an Underhill turnover and the home defence was then back in grave peril as Smith pinned them back with a kick that was followed by Feyi-Waboso and Dan Cole going close.

Earl succeeded soon after, helped by an offload from Mitchell who sucked in two tacklers, but England then had to regroup when Smith was sent to the sin-bin for an early tackle on Yoshitaka Yazaki.

Despite being a man down, scrum-half Randall darted over with ease and he was joined off the bench by Tom Curry, who was making his first Test appearance since the World Cup because of hip surgery.

The replacements streamed off England’s bench and Japan took advantage of the comings and goings to run in classy tries through Nezuka and Tua.

But there was one last try for Underhill as England finished with 14 men after Ewels’ dismissal.

The teams

Japan: 15 Yoshitaka Yazaki, 14 Jone Naikabula, 13 Dylan Riley, 12 Tomoki Osada, 11 Koga Nezuka, 10 Seungsin Lee, 9 Naoto Saito, 8 Faulua Makisi, 7 Tiennan Costley, 6 Michael Leitch, 5 Warner Dearns, 4 Sanaila Waqa, 3 Shuhei Takeuchi, 2 Mamoru Harada, 1 Takayoshi Mohara
Replacements: 16 Atsushi Sakate, 17 Shogo Miura, 18 Keijiro Tamefusa, 19 Amanaki Saumaki, 20 Kai Yamamoto, 21 Shinobu Fujiwara, 22 Rikiya Matsuda, 23 Samisoni Tua

England: 15 George Furbank, 14 Immanuel Feyi-Waboso, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Ollie Lawrence, 11 Tommy Freeman, 10 Marcus Smith, 9 Alex Mitchell, 8 Ben Earl, 7 Sam Underhill, 6 Chandler Cunningham-South, 5 George Martin, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Jamie George (c), 1 Bevan Rodd
Replacements: 16 Theo Dan, 17 Joe Marler, 18 Will Stuart, 19 Charlie Ewels, 20 Tom Curry, 21 Harry Randall, 22 Fin Smith, 23 Tom Roebuck

Referee: Luc Ramos (France)
Assistant Referees: Eoghan Cross (Ireland), Angus Mabey (New Zealand)
TMO: Eric Gauzins (France)

READ MORE: England ‘in talks’ to end a 24-year wait for USA Tests as 2025 schedule takes shape – report