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Wales v England: Player Ratings & Match Review

Wales go top of Six Nations table with record-breaking win over England

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Written by Olly Green
Photo by David Rogers - RFU/The RFU Collection via Getty Images

Wales ended England’s Grand Slam hopes with a record-breaking 12th consecutive test win.

Warren Gatland’s side produced a dogged second-half display to turn around a 10-3 deficit at the interval, and run out 21-13 winners.

Tom Curry’s first international try had given England the advantage at the break.

But despite spells of English pressure, Wales’ defence stood firm, and with 13 minutes they got their reward; second row Cory Hill powered his way over the line after strong work from the Welsh pack.

The Principality Stadium was then sent into pandemonium with just over two minutes left on the clock.

Replacement fly-half Dan Biggar kicked cross-field, and winger Josh Adams climbed above Elliot Daly to claim the ball and bundle over in the corner.

Wales are now in pole position to win the championship, and have the chance to secure their first Grand Slam since 2012.

How it happened

The game started in true ‘Wales vs England’ fashion – Kyle Sinckler’s thumping tackles to the soundtrack of 74,000 bellowing rugby fans typified the rivalry between these two international giants.

Both sides conceded penalties during a bruising first 20 minutes, with Gareth Anscombe and Owen Farrell slotting from the tee.

Neither team was able to gain the upper hand as the early stages were dominated by poor kicking and chasing.

But it was flanker Curry who eventually penetrated the stubborn Welsh defence. The Sale Shark’s man exploited a gap at the fringes of a ruck with a pick and go and touched down for the games first try.

Welsh fans will blame Justin Tipuric’s off-the-ball altercation with England scrum-half Ben Youngs for the gaping hole in their defence.

In fairness, it was an uncharacteristic lapse in an almost flawless defensive display from Wales.

There were few defining moments in the 13 minutes that followed. England were evidently growing in confidence, but came away with nothing to show for a strong finish to the half.

England didn’t begin the second half with the same swagger, and as a result the game continued to unfold in the same gritty style.

Head coach Eddie Jones was left frustrated as England conceded two penalties in 5 minutes, which were duly converted by Anscombe, reducing the deficit to one point.

The confidence then seemed to drain from England’s players, but Farrell extended their narrow lead yet again following a trademark carry from centre Manu Tuilagi.

It Wales though who were in the ascendancy. They were dominating possession, and Biggar was beginning to pull the strings from the number ten position following his introduction.

England were resilient though, and it took a colossal 34 phases for the Welsh to break that resilience. Hill eventually found a gap and crashed over the line to send the Welsh support into raptures.

Biggar’s conversion dissected the posts to leave the score 16-13 with just over 10 minutes to go.

There was little suggestion England would repeat the late heroics of their last visit to Wales, and their fate was all but sealed when Adams gathered Biggar’s kick to score in the corner with minutes to go.

Wales now have the opportunity to secure the championship and a first Grand Slam in seven years. Victory over Scotland at Murrayfield would offer Wales the chance to seal the Grand Slam in front of their own fans in three weeks’ time.

Meanwhile England host an Italy side who have been no walkover so far, followed by Scotland at Twickenham on the sixth and final matchday.

How they rated

Wales

Liam Williams (Full-back) – 9

A constant threat with his strong running, and was almost flawless under the high ball despite a first-half bombardment. Was reliable defensively too.

George North (Winger) – 7

To England’s credit he was kept relatively quiet, aside from the odd 10m burst that got the Welsh fans on their feet. Made no notable errors.

Jonathan Davies (Centre) – 7.5

Davies was as solid as ever in defence, and was a nuisance at the breakdown too. Showed his experience as Wales took control in a nervy second-half.

Hadleigh Parkes (Centre) – 8

Another robust Welsh centre who stepped up to the physical test of Manu Tuilagi. Made more metres than anyone else on the pitch (79).

Josh Adams (Winger) – 7.5

Struggled to get involved in a game that was dominated by the big men up front as his side kept things narrow. His leap above Daly was however a crowning moment on brilliant day for Welsh rugby, and he did well to finish it off.

Gareth Anscombe (Fly-half) – 6.5

Attempted a number of kicks in the first half that came to very little. Improved in the second half, but was withdrawn for Biggar after an hour who outshone him.

Gareth Davies (Scrum-half) – 7

Was surprisingly effective in defensive with his pressure on Farrell, but made a few errors with the ball in hand that have littered his appearances this championship.

Rob Evans (Prop) – 7.5

Hit double figures in terms of tackles (10) and was effective at the ruck. No surprise he was subbed after a lung-busting hour.

Ken Owens (Hooker) – 8

Another experienced Welsh player who stepped up to the occasion, tackling everything that moved. Was pretty secure with his lineout throws as well

Tomas Francis (Prop) – 7

Was effective in the scrums, particularly towards the end of the first half. Solid in defence.

Alun Wyn Jones (Second-row) – 9

Yet another majestic performance from the captain, lead his side into battle and was rampant throughout the 80 minutes.

Cory Hill (Second-row) – 8

Proved to be the key to unlocking England’s defence. Another industrious display.

Josh Navidi (Flanker) – 8

Will be frustrated by some of his handling errors but put his body on the line for his country countless times.

Justin Tipuric (Flanker) – 8

A nice attempt to perform one of the dark arts of back-rowing by holding Youngs on the ground, but was punished by opposite number Curry. Was dominant in the lineout, and was all action in open play.

Ross Moriarty (Number eight) – 8

Took on the imposing figure of Billy Vunipola and came out on top, which very few can say they have done. Made 35m from his home at the base of the scrum.

Subs:

Elliot Dee (for Owens 77) N/A

Nicky Smith (for Evans 61) 6.5

Continued the work that was started by Evans.

Dillon Lewis (for Francis 61) 7

A busy cameo from the prop.

Adam Beard (for Hill 71) N/A

Aaron Wainwright (for Moriarty 77) N/A

Aled Davies (for Gareth Davies 77) N/A

Dan Biggar (for Anscombe 61) 8

Was much more dynamic than Anscombe and was arguably the difference. Will surely start against Scotland.

Owen Watkin (for Parkes 79) N/A

England

Elliot Daly (Full-back) – 5.5

Missed a penalty in the early stages. Struggled to make any yards when gathering Wales kicks, and was beaten by Adams in the air to cap a disappointing display.

Jack Nowell (Winger) – 6.5

Made yards whenever the ball eventually reached him, but Wales’ defence meant he was unable to produce anything spectacular.

Henry Slade (Centre) – 7

Wasn’t as influential as in the first two games, but made more metres that any other England player (63) thanks to his pace.

Manu Tuilagi (Centre) – 7

Still doesn’t look at his very, very best, but carried well as the game went on and made a cracking tackle on Parkes.

Jonny May (Winger) – 6

Was kept very quiet, and had little influence on the game. Had to leave the field with a head injury.

Owen Farrell (Fly-half) – 6

He started poorly compared to his own high standards, but was able to offer England hope with his kicking from hand and the tee.

Ben Youngs (Scrum-half) – 6

Box-kicks were decent, didn’t make too many errors but was unable to help his team unlock a sturdy Welsh defence.

Ben Moon (Prop) – 6

Grafted for 76 minutes, and did his best to keep Wales at bay. Battled well against Exeter team made Francis in the scrum.

Jamie George (Hooker) – 7.5

Has been a fantastic replacement for Dylan Hartley and was very effective again against Wales. One of England’s best performers.

Kyle Sinckler (Prop) – 7

Started the game terrifically, making some thunderous tackles and carries. Struggled to maintain his discipline after half time and was subbed off following a risky choke tackle.

Courtney Lawes (Second-row) – 7.5

A typically physical display from the big lock and set up Curry’s try with a brilliant steal in the lineout. England will hope the injury isn’t too serious.

George Kruis (Second-row) – 7.5

Made 17 tackles in just over an hour, hit some good lines, and was a nuisance in the lineout. Another England player who can hold his head up high in defeat.

Mark Wilson (Flanker) – 7

Making the blindside position his own with consistent performances. Has another level to reach though if he wants to come out on top of back rows as good as Wales’.

Tom Curry (Flanker) – 7.5

Worked hard, and looks like he will be a fantastic player for England over the coming years. Showed intelligence and took responsibility for his try.

Billy Vunipola (Number eight) – 6

Not his best day both with and without the ball. Will be disappointed to have been overshadowed by Moriarty. Perhaps still finding his best form after a long injury layoff.

Subs:

Ellis Genge (for Moon 77) N/A

Harry Williams (for Sinckler 58) 7

Picked up where Sinckler left off with his tackling.,

Joe Launchbury (for Kruis 64) 6

Not massively involved, not as good as Kruis.

Brad Shields (for Lawes 75) N/A

Joe Cokanasiga (for May 70) 5.5 Offered the same as May did to the game unfortunately; nothing

Full Match Highlights below:


6 Nations

‘Tour Experience Should Help Players To Kick On’ – Easterby

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The 35-man panel was announced yesterday for their upcoming trip to South Africa, which will see them play the Griquas, Pumas and Cheetahs as part of the Toyota Challenge, beginning on Friday, September 30.

Baloucoune was set to tour New Zealand with Ireland last summer, but a hip injury sidelined him at the end of last season. Now, a year out from the Rugby World Cup, he is determined to get back in the Test match fold.

Emerging Ireland head coach Simon Easterby sees the Bloemfontein series as a timely opportunity for the Ulster winger, who was capped against the USA and Argentina last year, to showcase his talent again in a green jersey.

“Rob was due to come to New Zealand with us and didn’t because of injury. He is certainly one that has been around the environment for a while, but he’s only got a couple of caps,” said Easterby.

“I guess him and a few others in there, we feel like there’s still a need for us to build time and exposure in what we’re trying to do.

“We’re really lucky at the moment that all the players are getting a high level of coaching and expertise in the provinces, but we do things slightly differently as the provinces will do.

“So, we need to make sure that we keep them aligned to what we’re doing in the national set-up. It’s not a million miles apart from each other, but there’s always going to be little nuances and differences that we have, that each province will do slightly differently.”

The Enniskillen man was in electric form at times during the 2021/22 campaign, his Heineken Champions Cup hat-trick away to Toulouse and a couple of dazzling scores in the URC standing out.

As one of only four Test-capped players in the Emerging Ireland selection, Baloucoune could have more of a leadership role to play in Bloemfontein where Easterby anticipates ‘a good standard of rugby’ and ‘a fast-flowing game, on potentially a dry track’.

His speed, athleticism and defensive and attacking skills look ideally suited for the three-match run, given the Ireland youngsters will be coming up against ‘some serious athletes in the three teams we will be playing against’.

Easterby continued: “For someone like Rob, who has spent time in the environment, he came in as a development player a couple of years ago and then won a couple of caps and did really well.

“Then he’s had to spend a bit of time out with injury. We would have loved to have seen him in New Zealand, getting opportunities out there, but we didn’t get that chance.

“So, he’s one that we feel will benefit from spending more time in our environment. Hopefully he goes back to Ulster after the experience and he kicks on again.

There’s this massive opportunity over the next couple of months, through the (Ireland) ‘A’ game and the autumn internationals and beyond that into the Six Nations and beyond, for players like Rob and others.

“The time spent with us, in the bigger picture, is hopefully going to expose them and give them a real good foundation for the season ahead because it is such a massive season for all of us.”

Versatile Leinster back Frawley, who turns 25 in December, is shaping up to be a contender for the Ireland number 10 jersey after his exploits in New Zealand.

During that second Test victory over Māori All Blacks, he stood tall in managing the game in wet and windy conditions in Wellington and contributed 10 points from the tee.

While Frawley has played most of his provincial rugby at inside centre, the Ireland management want to see more of him at out-half and this upcoming tour could see him really come to the fore.

“We feel ‘Frawls’ has the potential to lead in a number of different positions,” noted Easterby. “Obviously he’s played 12 a fair bit for Leinster, but we see him – which he did in the Māori weeks – as being a guy that can lead from the front at 10. You know, lead a week.

“He’ll be asked in the next few weeks to do a slightly different role to what he was doing in New Zealand because he had a lot of senior players around him.

“We feel like he has the ability to step up and lead the week as someone like, the extreme, that Johnny Sexton does week in and week out and has done for a number of years.

“Giving those players like ‘Frawls’ the chance to put himself at the forefront of a week, lead it and take the team to a performance on a weekend in that position of 10 is crucial for us.”

Frawley will certainly face some stiff competition for the starting berth from Munster’s Jack Crowley and Ulster newcomer Jake Flannery, who made the switch from his native Munster and has similarly lofty ambitions.

Getting these players up to speed with the rigours of an international set-up and playing in a challenging touring environment is of huge value to the national coaches, but also potentially for their provinces on their return.

“We’re still finding a little bit about Frawls and the way he can play. You can see that when they’re playing in the URC and they’re playing for their provinces, but it is slightly different,” said the Emerging Ireland head coach.

“It’s not hugely different but it is different when you have them in your environment across a period of a couple of weeks.

“Hopefully we can benefit from that time and Frawls and the other players can benefit from that time with us when they go back to their provinces after this trip.”

Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography


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Easterby: Emerging Ireland Tour Allows Us To Look Further Into Talent Pool

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Presenting an early opportunity to work with and impress the national coaches in a World Cup year, an Emerging Ireland squad has been selected to compete in the upcoming Toyota Challenge in Bloemfontein.

Three of South Africa’s Currie Cup teams, the Griquas, Pumas and Cheetahs, will provide the opposition for a young squad coached by Simon Easterby, the national defence coach.

The 35-man panel includes four Test-capped players, three who saw action against the Māori All Blacks, and a number of players who featured for the Ireland Under-20s in recent seasons, including 2022 U-20 Grand Slam winners James Culhane and Chay Mullins.

These are the first fixtures for an Emerging Ireland side since the Tbilisi Cup back in 2015, with Easterby hoping those selected can make the most out of the tour and press their claims for further involvement in November and beyond.

“I guess to put it in context, and the year that presents itself leading to the Rugby World Cup, we know that we have a real good, strong core group of players that’s been with us for a number of years,” said Easterby.

“But, we have to try and grow the depth and look further into the talent pool, in terms of our squad going forward.

“This is a real opportunity to build some continuity for some of those players that would have been with us in New Zealand during the Māori games and spent time with us in the environment there.

“But, also bring back a few players who have been out of the system for a while due to injury or form, and also look at some of the depth in positions that we need to fulfil a World Cup year.”

Ulster’s Robert Baloucoune and Cormac Izuchukwu are both back from injury, as is Munster’s highly-rated back rower John Hodnett, while promising young tightheads Tom Clarkson, Roman Salanoa (pictured above) and Sam Illo will travel.

This week’s announcement that an Ireland ‘A’ team will take on an All Blacks XV in November should give an added incentive to the South Africa-bound group, who will first come together for a three-day camp at the IRFU High Performance Centre next week.

Easterby explained: “We know 33 players will go to the World Cup, but we all know that that number needs to be higher and we need to have a larger pool of players at our disposal.

“To do that and effectively have that number of players, we need to spend more time with players and get to know players, connect with players.

“That’s why there’s a good cross-section of players that have got a few caps, players that have spent time in the environment recently, but also players who won’t have had any time in the environment.

“That gives us an opportunity to expose them to what we’re trying to do as a team, and for us as coaches in particular, to connect with those players and get to know them a bit better in what will be a really challenging year.”

The Toyota Challenge, which will see Emerging Ireland play three times in nine days, beginning on Friday, September 30, is happening at the same time as some of the early rounds of the BKT United Rugby Championship.

Among those matches are interprovincial derbies in both Belfast and Galway, but Easterby said that there has been plenty of communication and hard work going on behind the scenes to ensure that both provincial and national needs are met.

“There’s been dialogue right through with Andy (Farrell) and the provincial coaches, in particular, discussing players, discussing their needs, our needs,” acknowledged the former Ireland and Lions flanker.

“There’s been compromises, there will be some selections that the province will feel that they’d be better served with them, but there’s also players that we feel would be better served, at this moment in time, exposing them to our environment.

“Looking at the bigger picture, the short to longer term is that this year presents itself with not just the three games in South Africa, there’s an Ireland ‘A’ game against a New Zealand XV in the autumn, there’s three Tests in the autumn, there’s the Six Nations and then there’s the pre-World Cup.

“So there’s not that many opportunities to expose players to the environment and find out a little more about certain players.

“With that in mind, we also have to feel like we’re not ripping the heart out of the provinces and taking too many players in one position.

“I’m sure there will be discussions along the way, injuries will inevitably happen throughout the next couple of weeks. We have to be prepared to be flexible and compromise as the provinces have in allowing us to select this team.”

Ireland head coach Farrell will be involved in the preparatory camp at the IRFU HPC, but will not be travelling to South Africa as he remains busy focusing on the November internationals and Rugby World Cup matters.

Easterby, who will be supported by fellow national coaches Paul O’Connell, Mike Catt and John Fogarty, said that Farrell will be ‘getting around and staying connected’ with the other Ireland players who will be returning for their provinces in the coming weeks.

“The timing of the tour coincides with a lot of players returning from their national break, the international players,” he added.

“So, player management and welfare has been at the forefront of a lot of what we’ve been talking about and understanding that, yes, we’re taking players out of the provincial system, but there will also be players re-entering their system at the same time as when we travel.

“To build depth we need time with the players, we need to find out a little bit more about them, about their personalities.

“We need to find out about how do they adapt to international rugby or at least adapt to situations where we’ve only got three or four training sessions to prepare for a game.”

Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography


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Emerging Ireland Squad Named For Toyota Challenge In Bloemfontein

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The Ireland coaching group have named the 35 man squad that will travel to South Africa in late September to play in the Toyota Challenge. The Emerging Ireland panel will have a three day camp in the IRFU’s High Performance Centre in Dublin before flying to Bloemfontein to play against three Currie Cup sides – the Griquas, Pumas and Cheetahs.

The squad contains four capped players – Robert Baloucoune (2 caps), Caolin Blade (1 cap), Shane Daly (2 caps) and Max Deegan (1 cap) – and three players who featured against the Māori All Blacks during the summer: Ciaran Frawley, Joe McCarthy and Cian Prendergast.  

Jamie Osborne and Tom Ahern have both trained with the senior Ireland squad as development players.

Eight players featured in the Ireland U20 side that won a Six Nations Grand Slam in 2019 – Tom Clarkson, Brian Deeny, Jake Flannery, John Hodnett, Michael Milne, Scott Penny, Callum Reid and Dylan Tierney-Martin. 

2022 U20 Six Nations Grand Slam winners James Culhane and Chay Mullins are included. James was named U20 Player of the Tournament while Chay has gone on to win a bronze medal at the Rugby World Cup Sevens in Cape Town.

Andrew Smith also played for Ireland 7s in last weekend’s Rugby World Cup Sevens in South Africa. The former Ireland U20 has played in seven World Series tournaments and won an Energia AIL title with Clontarf this year.

Harry McNulty and Andrew Smith 11/09/2022

 Ireland’s Andrew Smith in action at the Rugby World Cup 7s in Cape Town Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Travis Prior

David Nucifora, IRFU Performance Director, commented:

“This Emerging Ireland tour is of vital strategic importance in a Rugby World Cup year. It will put some stress on our player resources but it will provide an opportunity for emerging talent to impress the national coaches early in a World Cup season. As these players return to their provinces their progress can be monitored and supported so that they remain part of the national team picture.

The three games in Bloemfontein and the game against the All Blacks XV in Dublin provide an incredible opportunity for these players to gain experience in the national environment and force their way into the coaches’ thinking for the season ahead.”

Andy Farrell, Ireland Head Coach, commented: “This opportunity provides another window for players to develop and show they can thrive in the intensity of a national environment. It will be exciting to see which players step up and put themselves in the frame for a further opportunity to impress in November.

“For some players it is an opportunity to build on what they have already learned in national camp and take their development to the next level, for others it is a first opportunity to show the national coaches what they are about and what they can deliver.”

Simon Easterby, Emerging Ireland Head Coach, commented: “The coaching group are really excited about working with this squad and broadening the selection pool for the national team.

“We will look to replicate the national team environment and training intensity, so players get a good understanding of what it takes to perform at the highest level. The players will have to adapt to the national team’s tactical and technical approach in a very short window of time and deal with the pressure of performing in a green jersey.”

Emerging Ireland Squad – Toyota Challenge 2022

Backs (15)

Robert Baloucoune (Ulster/Enniskillen)*
Caolin Blade (Connacht/Galwegians)*
Jack Crowley (Munster/Cork Constitution)
Shane Daly (Munster/Cork Constitution)*
Nathan Doak (Ulster/Banbridge)
Jake Flannery (Ulster/Shannon)
Antoine Frisch (Munster)
Ciaran Frawley (Leinster/UCD)
Michael McDonald (Ulster)
Ethan McIlroy (Ulster/Queens RFC)
Stewart Moore (Ulster/Malone)
Chay Mullins (Connacht/IQ Rugby)
Calvin Nash (Munster/Young Munster)
Jamie Osbourne (Leinster/Naas)
Andrew Smith (Leinster/Clontarf)

Forwards (20)

Tom Ahern (Munster/Shannon)
Diarmuid Barron (Munster/Garryowen)
Tom Clarkson (Leinster/Dublin University)
James Culhane (Leinster/UCD)
Max Deegan (Leinster/Lansdowne)*
Brian Deeny (Leinster/Clontarf)
John Hodnett (Munster/UCC)
Sam Illo (Connacht)
Cormac Izuchukwu (Ulster/Ballynahinch)
Alex Kendellen (Munster/UCC)
Joe McCarthy (Leinster/Dublin University)
Michael Milne (Leinster/UCD)
Scott Penny (Leinster/UCD)
Cian Prendergast (Connacht)
Callum Reid (Ulster/Banbridge)
Roman Salonoa (Munster/Shannon)
Alex Soroka (Leinster/Clontarf)
Tom Stewart (Ulster/Ballynahinch)
Dylan Tierney-Martin (Connacht/Corinthians)
Josh Wycherley (Munster/Young Munster)

*Capped For Ireland

Emerging Ireland Toyota Challenge Fixtures 2022

Windhoek Draught Griquas vs Emerging Ireland
Toyota Stadium, Bloemfontein, South Africa
Friday 30th September 2022, KO 12:45 (Irish time)

Airlink Pumas vs Emerging Ireland
Toyota Stadium, Bloemfontein, South Africa
Wednesday 5th October 2022, KO 16:00 (Irish time)

Toyota Cheetahs vs Emerging Ireland
Toyota Stadium, Bloemfontein, South Africa
Sunday 9th October 2022, KO 12:00 (Irish time)

Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography


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