Our verdict on the England players after a 31-14 win


Jack Willis‘s comeback inspired England to a first win of the Steve Borthwick era courtesy of a 31-14 triumph over Italy at Twickenham in the Six Nations.

Here is how we rated the home players as England opened their account in the 2023 championship.

England player ratings – Backs

15. Freddie Steward – 6

His usual unflappable self in the air, would have been pleased to put in a steady showing after being exposed at the back a couple of times against Scotland.

14. Max Malins – 7

It feels like a long time since he was jettisoned by Eddie Jones for poor body language. A livewire on the wing, was unlucky to have a try assist chalked off.

Read more: England Six Nations squad

13. Henry Slade – 6

Borthwick was pleased to have him back and you could see why with some lovely touches in midfield. That left boot is a potent weapon but Slade will have a greater impact in games to come.

12. Ollie Lawrence – 9

Ollie Lawrence trip

Ollie Lawrence started at 12 for England against Italy (Getty Images)

What a treat to have some thrust in the England centres. Justified Borthwick’s decision to ditch the Smith-Farrell axis by generating some real go-forward. Sat down Tommy Allan with one particularly thunderous foray forward in the second half.

Made 84 metres in 11 carries with seven tackles in defence, bringing his Bath form to the big stage and surely earning a run in the 12 shirt for the rest of the championship.

11. Ollie Hassell-Collins – 5

Must’ve been getting cold on the edge, waited about half-an-hour for a touch only to get the ball straight to the head. Replaced by Henry Arundell on the hour having struggled to make his mark.

Related: Rugby Fixtures

10. Owen Farrell – 6

Looked far more comfortable marshalling the troops from first receiver. Put in some lovely tactical kicks but also had a few moments that didn’t quite go his way and opted too often to put boot to ball in the Italy 22. Back to his normal reliable self off the tee after a couple of misses against Scotland.

9. Jack van Poortvliet – 6

Definitely brings some zip to the England attack and was unlucky to have his try ruled out for the Ollie Lawrence ‘trip’ in the build-up.

England player ratings – Forwards

1. Ellis Genge – 8

A supreme all-around display. Beautiful deft tip-on to send Ollie Chessum over, coupled with scrum dominance and his usual carrying grunt.

2. Jamie George – 7

Trusty darts at lineout time and got his just rewards with a try off the back of one as the maul proved to be very destructive. You can see why Borthwick was so desperate for him to recover from concussion in time for the championship.

3. Kyle Sinckler – 6

Solid if not outstanding before picking up a cut on the face, the front row combination of Genge, George and Sinckler is now an established and formidable trio.

4. Maro Itoje – 6

More prominent than in recent games, still liable to give the odd penalty away but noticeably ferocious in defence, flew out of the line to clatter opposing captain Michele Lamaro who failed to shake off a resulting dead leg.

5. Ollie Chessum – 6

Ropey start with a knock-on and penalty conceded in the opening three minutes but recovered well. Industrious and fast becoming a fan favourite in the engine room.

6. Lewis Ludlam – 7

Quietly impressive, doing the hard yards and unseen bits. Strong in defence and always lurking at the breakdown, has done his chances of becoming a regular starter no harm.

7. Jack Willis – 9

Jack Willis comeback to remember against Italy

Jack Willis celebrates his try against Italy (Getty Images)

Outstanding upon his return. An early try in his stride, a potent combo of tackle and jackal wreaked havoc for Italy. A perfect comeback after his horrendous injury against the same opponents two years ago.

8. Alex Dombrandt – 6

Still guilty of spilling the ball more often than he’d like but made up for it with some great carries from kick-offs and hard work around the park – teamed up well with Willis for one impressive choke tackle.

Related: Jack Willis comeback to remember against Italy

England player ratings – Replacements

16. Jack Walker – 5

Would have been pleased to get on for his debut but should really have held on to the ball when in a wide channel instead of losing possession attempting to offload.

17. Mako Vunipola – 5

Firmly second choice these days and caught out for Alessandro Fusco’s try.

18. Dan Cole – 6

Enjoying his international renaissance, unable to stop Fusco going between him and Vunipola but steady at scrum time.

19. Nick Isiekwe – 5

Didn’t have long enough to make a lasting impression.

20. Ben Earl – 5

Gave away one penalty for being too eager to jackal without coming through the gate, constantly looks like he’s chomping at the bit to make an impression.

21. Alex Mitchell – 7

Lovely snipe and assist for Henry Arundell’s try in the 70th minute, has waited patiently for his chance and took it off the bench.

22. Marcus Smith – 6

Dropped and introduced late on, looked his usual sprightly self but unable to influence much in a handful of minutes.

23. Henry Arundell – 7

Fast-tracked back into the set-up, he’s clearly held in high regard and he showed why with a classy finish in the corner. Will be after Hassell-Collins’s starting jersey in Cardiff in Round 3.

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