Review of the Rugby World Cup pool stage: How England can improve for the quarterfinals, plus the best players and matches so far

Katy Daley-Mclean reviews the group stage, rates England's overall performance, selects her players and match of the tournament, and identifies the standout area the Red Roses still need to work on.

Rating England's overall performance so far

This England squad is capable of much more than we have seen thus far, but at a World Cup, you may not get to see that peak performance, which is intriguing.

England could go through the tournament, reach the final, and win without ever playing their absolute best. Realistically, if they win the World Cup, few will remember whether they left much in the tank along the way, but I'll be curious to see how close this team can get to playing at their peak, and if any other nation will push them to do so.

I'd give England's group stage performance a B+ overall. They've been really solid and good in a variety of areas, but I believe they have a lot more to offer to achieve that A+ performance.

England has room to improve

I know we're being harsh, but I'd like to see a little more from England. The back three of Jess Breach, Sarah McKenna, and Abby Dow barely touched the ball against South Africa.

We should keep in mind that these are some of the most dangerous wingers in the world, and you want to give these players a platform, an opportunity to prove their worth, not only for themselves, but also because if they don't do so in these early games, it may be more difficult if they need that game plan later in the tournament.

Twelve of England's 13 tries against the Springboks were set up by forward play. Yes, the backs were involved in some of them, but I'd be fuming if I was playing in the wide channels, especially in a game where England could afford to mix it up.

The backs did not touch the ball in the first five tries. Everyone will say, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," but I believe England's back line could demand more. That would be my challenge to Zoe Harrison and Leanne Infante: demand the ball earlier because we know that pack is dominant, we know they score brilliant set-piece tries, but you also have backs who have the potential to be world beaters, they just need the ball to show it.

The standout Red Roses are making their mark.

Flanker Sadia Kabeya Sadia has been brilliant in terms of who has had more opportunities and who has been more consistent. She got off to a good start in the pool opener against Fiji, then came off the bench against South Africa. You can't help but talk about her when she's on the pitch. That is a sign of a good player because she is involved in breakdowns and carries well.

Zoe Aldcroft (security) - She's delivered exactly what we've come to expect from the World Rugby Player of the Year from last year. She's been in the second row, which is where she's traditionally started, and she carries well, runs the lineout alongside Abbie Ward, and gets a lot of work done.

Hannah Botterman (costumes) - She started against South Africa after being second choice to Vickii Cornborough in the pool stage, and she was outstanding in the scrum against the Springboks. We know she's very good in the jackal and has won some crucial turnovers for England. Hannah Botterman comes to mind when you think of impact.

The pool stage match

The match between New Zealand and Australia on the first day of the tournament was memorable for me. Australia pushed the host country close before running out of steam in the final 20 minutes. It was the game that drew everyone's attention and demonstrated that New Zealand can be defeated.

Another game that stood out was Italy's 22-10 win over America, which changed the Italians' fortunes in Pool B, as they went on to finish second and reach the World Cup quarter-finals for the first time in their history.

The players who have shone on the international stage

South African Aseza Hele - The Springboks' No. 8 was outstanding against England in the final pool match, but she had already beaten 19 defenders, demonstrating the talented player she is for the team she represents. You'd expect it from a Marlie Packer, Sadia Kabeya, or Poppy Cleall because they're on the front foot and getting quick ball, but Hele is beating defenders with not the quickest ball or the most dominant side.

Canada's Emily Tuttosi - She has six tries so far in the tournament, demonstrating Canada's forward dominance and how good she is close to the line. Tuttosi, who plays club rugby for Exeter Chiefs, wasn't always on the radar for the national team, but she's finally getting the chance and recognition she deserves.

Alev Kelter, United States - I've had a great time watching her play throughout the tournament. The inside center is skilled at beating opponents one-on-one and scored more than half of the American points in their 29-14 loss to Canada in their final pool match.

In the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals next weekend, England will face Australia, while Wales will face New Zealand. Later this week, read Katy Daley-predictions Mclean's for the final eight.