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The three standout players that drove England’s victory over Japan

BY Jack Tunney  ·  Saturday Jun 22, 2024

In the first of their three summer tour matches, England defeated Japan in comprehensive style at the National Stadium today. Their 17-52 victory over Japan should prove an important catalyst as they take their impressive young team to the lower reaches of the Southern Hemisphere in the much anticipated two-match test against the All Blacks in July.

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After securing a draw against the mighty men in black in Eddie Jones’ final game as England coach roughly 18 months ago, this new-look England squad are expected to provide quite the challenge for the three-time world champions next month. England’s new men impressively swept aside an inexperienced Japan side today, coached by Eddie Jones in an exhilarating contest highlighting the strengths of a side wearing dark blue for the first time this year.

Here are the three standout players for England during this game:

Marcus Smith

Truly justifying his selection at fly-half, the 25-year-old had the chance to put down a marker in the absence of both the injured George Ford and the self-exiled Owen Farrell as he looked to prove why he should be the future of English rugby.

In the past Smith has been victim of being forced to play a stoic England style much unlike his fast-flowing club rugby, in which the slow kicking game took much of the zip and talent out of any real performance that the young man should be able to muster. This match looked, at least from the outside, much more suited to the Harlequins man’s talents as his support runners matched the intensity and lines that Smith would expect of them. Thanks to those around him allowing him to play his natural game, he scored a beautiful try of his own before setting up two wide scores for Feyi-Waboso and Slate respectively.

If continues in this vein, then the All Blacks will struggle to contain him.

Alex Mitchell

Having inadvertently benefitted from the pre-World Cup injury of Jack Van Poortvliet, Mitchell has never relinquished control of the England number nine shirt. Never having what you might call a bad game, the Saint’s scrum half has added that extra little bit of zip and control to the playmaking position that was Ben Youngs’ to lose for so many years.

His performance this morning saw the young man having to match the speed and intensity that Japan forced upon him early doors, but from that point on he was the focal point of every attack, choosing the correct option time and time again with precision and expertise.

Ben Earl

This could have been given to any of the back row players after a superb performance from a trio that kept the great Tom Curry out of the starting XV, but simply the enthusiasm to get involved in every part of the game set Earl aside.

Completing a fixture-high of 12 carries and 13 tackles indicated that the Saracens man was vital to his team’s success. Having been compared to the very best in the game during the recent World Cup, his match-up against the three-time winners in July will be fascinating.

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In this episode of Walk the Talk, Jim Hamilton chats with double World Cup winner Damian de Allende about all things Springbok rugby, including RWC2023 and the upcoming Ireland series. Watch now for free on RugbyPass TV

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