Freddie Steward has established himself as England’s first name on the team sheet

Steward clawed back a long clearance and passed Kazuki Himeno, drawing in two more tacklers before joining close mate Jack van Poortvliet, another Leicester Tiger and Norfolk native, in lifting a deft offload. Squandered by similar breaks against Argentina, England ended the chance with smooth supporting play. Van Poortvliet fed Cokanasiga and Smith came in to pull out a pass from the floor.

Number three also owed Steward. As the first half ended, he hoisted a high and a low and collected the ball in characteristic fashion over Ryohei Yamanaka. A bobble meant Steward had to catch it again, which he did with a dexterity that made Twickenham gasp. Feeling he was isolated, Steward unloaded at Cokanasiga, completing an extremely skillful intervention. A phase later, Van Poortvliet’s hooked chip allowed the England defense to put the pressure on. Farrell poached a breakdown turnover and Guy Porter was the beneficiary.

In a second half of shadow and light, England gradually took the lead. Near the hour mark, Steward exploded a clearance that jumped into touch just ahead of Japan’s 22. A yard further and the hosts would have received the throw in the lineout. Then, five minutes later, came an intriguing shuffle.

Henry Slade and Manu Tuilagi entered the fray, replacing Porter and Cokanasiga. The result ? Slade assumed the full-back role, with Steward stepping out the wing. It was this exact setup, with Tuilagi on 14 and Jonny May on the other wing, that started against Australia a year ago. And it produced some interesting moments.

In the 74th minute, Smith delivered a wobbly pass on his own 10-yard line to Steward, who leaped far enough to fix Yamanaka. He kicked his own into space and Matsushima, swinging on the pendulum, was foxed by a nasty bounce. Slade put a fluorescent boot on it and Smith jumped up to bring 50.

Eddie Jones will have a number of potential backlines swimming around his head. Persistence with Smith and Farrell as dual point guards could be a temporary measure while Steward’s distribution improves. In terms of overtaking, he is not yet Le Roux. But he has an impressively growing arsenal of attributes.

Henry Arundell is sure to be included in England’s back three during the Six Nations, possibly at the back with Steward out. Before that, there are England’s missions against the All Blacks and the Springboks. Steward, surely, will be the noted first name for some time to come.

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