Preview: England v United States
WORLD CUP POOL MATCH: A revamped England will tackle the United States, but coach Eddie Jones is not taking their Pool C opponents lightly.
Jones expects the United States to play with huge self-belief and confidence when they clash on Thursday.
Jones, who announced 10 changes on Tuesday to the side that struggled to hit top gear in their opening Pool C win over Tonga, said the US would be an entirely different proposition to the Pacific Islanders.
“We know they’ve been down in Okinawa preparing with the marines, so they’ll be hardened for battle,” he told a news conference after announcing the team on Tuesday.
“We don’t know what the USA is going to bring but we know they are going to be committed, they are going to play with a lot of pride.”
Jones has opted to rest rampaging centre Manu Tuilagi, who scored two tries against Tonga, among a slew of changes while giving squad players a chance to stake a claim.
Skipper Owen Farrell will be on the bench with only fullback Elliot Daly, flyhalf George Ford, No.8 Billy Vunipola, flanker Tom Curry and prop Joe Marler retaining their places for the game at Kobe Misaki Stadium.
Joe Cokanasiga and fellow wing Ruaridh McConnochie will make their World Cup debuts.
Dan Cole, meanwhile, will join Luke Cowan-Dickie and Marler in the front row to earn his 91st cap, tying Jonny Wilkinson for third on the men’s all-time appearances list.
“We’ve got a plan for each player – some need to play a lot of rugby, some are better playing games every so often,” Jones said.
Jones had said on Monday that the game against a well-rested United States team would be like playing against “15 Donald Trumps”, expecting the confident Americans to hold nothing back in their first game in Japan.
Four of the five players attached to English Premiership clubs in the US squad have made coach Gary Gold’s starting line-up, including Sale Sharks flyhalf AJ MacGinty, while former Leicester Tigers back Blaine Scully will captain the side.
The youngest member of the squad, 19-year-old David Ainuu, gets to start at loosehead prop and Gold said he brings a lot to the table despite his inexperience.
“Energy, workrate, enthusiasm and hunger,” Gold said of the Toulouse prop.
Players to watch
For England: Dan Cole will play his 91st Test for England becoming the third most capped England men’s player alongside Jonny Wilkinson. Ben Youngs, who is named as a replacement, will join Cole and Wilkinson if he features during the game. Willi Heinz will start at scrumhalf, with Piers Francis and Jonathan Joseph selected in the centres. Joe Cokanasiga and Ruaridh McConnochie will play on the wings with Elliot Daly named at fullback.
For the United States: There are no major surprises as South African coach Gary Gold opted to name four English-based players in his starting line-up. Sale Sharks AJ MacGinty will don the flyhalf jersey. While on the bench Bryce Campbell, who plies his trade at London Irish is the fifth English-based player in the USA side. The youngest member of the squad is 19-year-old Toulouse prop David Ainuu, who starts at loosehead. Blaine Scully will captain the side from the right wing. The former Leicester Tigers back will be playing in his third World Cup.
Head to head
As with any game, there are always interesting contests all over the field. Of particular interest will be the battle at flyhalf – George Ford (England) and AJ MacGinty (United States), who know each other very well – from their contests in the Premiership. Cam Dolan (United States) will have a tall order to go from Major League Rugby to oppose the colossus that is Billy Vunipola (England).
Prediction: The bookmakers vary wildly – anything from a 25- to a 35-point winning margin for England. It is the United States’ first foray into the World Cup, so there is a touch of uncertainty about them. You won’t be far wrong if you back England to win by 30 points.
England: 15 Elliot Daly, 14 Ruaridh McConnochie, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Piers Francis, 11 Joe Cokanasiga, 10 George Ford (captain), 9 Willi Heinz, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Lewis Ludlam, 6 Tom Curry, 5 George Kruis, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Jack Singleton, 17 Ellis Genge, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 Courtney Lawes, 20 Mark Wilson, 21 Ben Youngs, 22 Owen Farrell, 23 Anthony Watson.
United States: 15 Will Hooley, 14 Blaine Scully (captain), 13 Marcel Brache, 12 Paul Lasike, 11 Martin Iosefo, 10 AJ MacGinty, 9 Shaun Davies, 8 Cam Dolan, 7 John Quill, 6 Tony Lamborn, 5 Nick Civetta, 4 Ben Landry, 3 Titi Lamositele, 2 Joe Taufete’e, 1 David Ainuu.
Replacements: 16 Dylan Fawsitt, 17 Olive Kilifi, 18 Paul Mullen, 19 Greg Peterson, 20 Hanco Germishuys, 21 Ruben de Haas, 22 Bryce Campbell, 23 Mike Te’o
Date: Thursday, September 26
Venue: Kobe Misaki Stadium, Kobe City
Kick-off: 19.45 (11.45 UK time, 06.45 USA Eastern time, 10.45 GMT)
Expected weather: Warm and mainly clear. High of 29°C and low of 22°C
Referee: Nic Berry (Australia)
Assistant referees: Paul Williams (New Zealand), Federico Anselmi (Argentina)
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)