Wholesale Changes Show England Have Strength In Reserve

Eddie Jones right to rest key players ahead of greater challenges
13:16, 24 Sep 2019

Eddie Jones has made wholesale changes for England's next World Cup game against USA on Thursday, keeping just five players in the starting line-up from the side who beat Tonga.

It shows the reservoir of talent within Jones' squad runs deep. Very deep. The Red Rose's starting XV will be nowhere near full strength against the Americans.

Then again, it should not need to be to register a second successive win ahead of far sterner tests which lie ahead. England face Argentina on Saturday week and then France seven days later in their final pool encounter.

Could Jones' men progress to the quarter-finals with a 100% record? You would not bet against it.

True, they were far from at their best in defeating Tonga 35-3 at the Sapporo Dome in Sunday's opener. The Tongans had recently conceded 92 points against New Zealand and it was a laboured performance at times from England. Certainly they will require more and accuracy with the ball if they are to qualify ahead of both Argentina and France at the top of Pool C. 

But in making wholesale changes for Thursday's game against the USA, it will allow a number of players to rest aching limbs and open the door for others to prove their worth.

Jones said: "The four-day turnaround is something we experimented with against Japan last autumn and so the players have had some experience of it. 

"You have to make sure the two days before the game are exactly the same as you would normally have for any other game. 

"So for us, a short and fast run tomorrow and today is an active recovery day. 

"What I see now is players handling it really well but the game on Thursday will be the litmus test."

There are World Cup debuts for Bath wingers Ruaridh McConnochie (pictured above) and Joe Cokanasiga, as well as Northampton centre Piers Francis.

McConnochie, the former Great Britain sevens player who collected a silver medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics, will fancy his chances of getting on the scoresheet. McConnochie finally earned his full England cap earlier this month against Italy in the final World Cup warm-up game. 

George Ford captains the side from fly-half, Billy Vunipola starts once again at number eight, with prop Dan Cole winning his 91st cap to go joint-third with Jonny Wilkinson on England's all-time list.

Willi Heinz comes in at scrum-half and George Kruis into the second row, with Owen Farrell among the big names on the bench.

There is no place in the matchday 23 for Henry Slade, who made his return from injury as a replacement against Tonga and appeared to be in some discomfort on the pitch.

Jones added: "We have looked at some players that would benefit not playing in this game, so have kept them out of the 23. 

"But it is a great opportunity for another set of players to do the team proud. USA are a tough, physical team who are extremely well coached by Gary Gold. 

"There are a number of players who our guys know really well and are a team we respect. 

"They have prepared two weeks with the Marines for this game so they will be fit, tough and be playing for the pride of their country."

England have won all five of their previous meetings with the USA, and beat them in the World Cups of 1987, 1991 and 2007.

Nothing less than a comfortable bonus-point victory will do ahead of next week's clash with Argentina. A third Test match without conceding a try, coupled with greater attacking fluency at the other end of the field, are what Jones will be demanding on Thursday.

England starting XV: Elliot Daly; Ruaridh McConnochie, Jonathan Joseph, Piers Francis, Joe Cokanasiga; George Ford, Willi Heinz; Joe Marler, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Dan Cole, Joe Launchbury, George Kruis, Tom Curry, Lewis Ludlam, Billy Vunipola. Replacements: Jack Singleton, Ellis Genge, Kyle Sinckler, Courtney Lawes, Mark Wilson, Ben Youngs, Owen Farrell, Anthony Watson.

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