This Six Nations tournament so far for England has been a nail biter, we have scraped two wins from two games some critics would argue we weren’t entitled to win. However, despite the critics, England are on the route to a second Grand Slam victory with help from teamwork and individual brilliance. This is how the fowards, who have secured Eddie Jones’ 16 wins from 16 games, have been doing this year.
1- Joe Marler, 7/10: I would have given Marler a higher mark but he has to reign his discipline in. I’m not talking about causing penalties, he has been clinical at the scrum and with tackling, but he is prone to get into fights. In both games so far he has been involved in a scuffle and I’m fearful of a repeat of the Samson Lee drama in last year’s match against Wales. Apart from this though, Marler has been an asset to the team.
2- Dylan Hartley, 6/10: The hooker was lucky to win back his title as captain after his red card whilst playing for the Northampton Saints but I think Eddie Jones made the right call in awarding it to him again. Although in both Six Nations games, so far, Dylan hasn’t played more than 55 minutes, his leadership and decisions have been on the money. Since taking to the captaincy, along with Jones, he has steered a once disastrous team towards victory, keep it coming I say!
— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) February 17, 2017
3- Dan Cole, 5/10: A good defensive player with a lot of experience. What lets him down is his play at the scrum, he tries risky things such as illegally binding or collapsing the scrum. Although he’s managed to get away with most faults this Six Nations, in previous tournaments he’s caused major problems for the team. I’m hoping he’ll stick to nice clean play in order to avoid any penalties.
4- Joe Launchbury, 8/10: Man of the Match against Wales, Launchbury has been very impressive at lock. Itoje has moved to 6 in place of the injured Chris Robshaw but I think this switch was smart as Launchbury is a very experienced player for not only England but for Wasps, his club, and his skills have been displayed in the opening games of the Six Nations. Turning over ball, being a machine in defence and not buckling under pressure.
5- Courtney Lawes, 7/10: Lawes has made England not even notice the absence of George Kruis. He has been clinical at the breakdown and crucial in defence. I am excited to see who Eddie Jones will pick when Kruis is back from injury, if Kruis gets back to performing at his best I believe we’ll have an interesting contest on our hands. Lawes has been causing many problems for the opposition in mauls and rucks, I have been loving his play and I hope he is not just pushed aside when Kruis is back in action.
— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) February 16, 2017
6- Maro Itoje, 6/10: Not so much the poster boy as he was last season but still putting in good shifts. The two opening games have showed him forcing errors and giving away more penalties than he is used to making but this may be coming with the pressure of not losing an international game in his career to date. Still a reliable player, not as impressive in attack but a wall in defence which in these international games is crucial for securing the win.
7- Jack Clifford, 7/10: (Started against Wales) impressive shift put in during his start for Wales, a good change from Tom Wood. I was so glad that Eddie Jones played him last year, as he is doing with a lot of uncapped players, because he can produce a good solid performance for England that can be relied upon. I would like to see more of him in a white shirt.
7- Tom Wood, 4/10: (Started against France) I was not at all impressed with Wood’s performance against France, he was at the centre of many penalties that were given which were nearly our downfall in that match. He was not clinical in attack, and whilst he was okay in defence, there was no magic that has been displayed by the likes of James Haskell when he played in this shirt. I was very happy when he was not included in the starting 15 for Wales.
8- Nathan Hughes, 7/10: Many supporters and critics had doubts about Hughes mainly due to the amazing consistent performance that we see from injured Billy Vunipola. I must admit these were large shoes to fill but I think he is doing a good job. He may not make as many carries as Billy or beat as many defenders but he is a good driving force for scrums and mauls and he does draw in defenders when they tackle him as he is a big guy to take down. If Billy comes back from injury I suspect Hughes will be on the bench but he will be a very strategic card for Eddie Jones to play if this situation arises.
James Haskell, 8/10: I know many say that Haskell should be in the starting 15 but I think he adds something special in the latter half of the game when England need a boost. He’s a natural leader, he is captain for Wasps, and this shows when he’s on the field. The brilliance we saw last Six Nations in both attack and defence have been displayed again this season and I’m so thrilled he recovered in time for the tournament.
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— Lovell Rugby (@lovellrugby) February 14, 2017
Kyle Sinckler, 5/10: Not seen much of Sinckler yet in the tournament, with the next game being against Italy you could presume that Eddie will make some changes to run out his different formations of the squad to see what works. A full assessment of Sinckler’s abilities could be made then
Jamie George,7/10: Jamie has been solid at Hooker, completing all of the lineout’s needed of him, making little breaks himself and getting over the game line. I would like to see Jamie start this week against Italy but I don’t know the likelihood of this due to Hartley’s captaincy. He is a diamond player though George and if it were not for Hartley I believe he would start every game.
Matt Mullan, 5/10: There has been a lot of talk of how the sub bench has saved England’s performances in the current Six Nations tournament but I feel as though Mullan has not been a part of this. This is not due to his performance, he hasn’t been given a real opportunity to demonstrate his skills which may be awarded to him this weekend against Italy.