5 talking points ahead of England’s Rugby World Cup clash with the USA
England face the United States in their second match at the World Cup on Thursday. Here, the PA news agency looks at some talking points ahead of the Pool C encounter in Kobe.
Coping with the short turnaround
While the USA are yet to play in the tournament, England are back in action just four days after beginning their campaign with victory over Tonga. Coach Eddie Jones had made 10 changes to his side in order to avoid injuries and keep some key players fresh ahead of the later pool matches against Argentina on October 5 and France seven days later. There could be a price to pay in terms of team cohesion, with the XV to take the field being relatively inexperienced, but England would still hope to have enough to see off the US.
Could the USA cause a shock?
The Americans may be rank outsiders for the tournament but they are an improving force in the world game and England should guard against any complacency. On the sevens circuit at least, the US are now a strong side and they may well be contenders for gold when they return to Japan for next year’s Olympics. Under the disciplined coaching of South African Gary Gold, the Eagles have already have a win over Scotland under their belts and have beaten Samoa this year. They also boast Premiership experience in the likes of Blaine Scully, Paul Lasike, Titi Lamositele and AJ MacGinty.
Hoping for improved performance
The much-changed team, and the likely further changes for the next game, isolate the game a little bit from the main campaign but Jones will still want to see improvement on the performance against Tonga to start building momentum. England were scrappy in their opener, conceding too many penalties early on and making numerous handling errors. They will hope to shake that rustiness off.
Eyes on Vunipola
Billy Vunipola is one player who has been retained in the side, with Jones commenting on how continuous action is better to keep the number eight in peak fitness rather than rest him. Given his history of injuries, this raised eyebrows – although with Mark Wilson not ready to start, options in his position were limited. Not surprisingly given his heritage, Vunipola found himself a marked man against Tonga and he will be keen to get into his stride.
Pressure on the referee
The officials in this tournament have an unenviable task in the coming days after strong criticism of their displays from the world governing body this week. World Rugby said referees’ “performances were not consistently of the standards set” by the organisation and themselves. There have been a number of controversial incidents in the early games of the tournament, most of them involving high tackles. Australian ref Nic Berry will be under scrutiny.