England v USA: Eddie Jones confident his side will deal with Rugby World Cup short turnaround

George Ford

George Ford will captain England from fly-half against the United States

Head coach Eddie Jones is confident his reshuffled England team will cope with their short turnaround as they prepare for Thursday’s game against the USA, four days after battling past Tonga.

Only five of the team from Sunday’s 35-3 win in their opening World Cup game are keeping their starting places.

“We’ve done a fair bit of homework for this turnaround,” Jones told BBC Sport.

“We trialled a four-day turnaround against Japan last autumn, to make sure the players have experience of it.”

George Ford captains the side at 10, with Billy Vunipola selected again at eight and there are World Cup debuts for wingers Ruaridh McConnochie and Joe Cokanasiga plus centre Piers Francis.

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Speaking to the BBC’s Rugby Union Weekly podcast, Jones added: “We’ve looked at selection pretty closely, looked at the players who could back up and who couldn’t back up.

“We’ve tried to work out which players need a rest. Each player is different – some players need a longer time to recover, and some are much better off when they’re in form to keep playing.”

England secured a four-try bonus-point win over Tonga in the Sapporo Dome, though they were laboured at times, looking solid in defence but making 14 handling errors across the 80 minutes.

Conditions in the Kobe Misaki stadium are likely to be similar to last weekend, the roof closed specifically for the match here rather than a permanent structure but the humidity inside still noticeable to those used to English autumns.

The home of Top League rugby team Kobelco Steelers as well as football team Vissel Kobe, the current club of former Barcelona and Spain great Andres Iniesta, has a capacity of just over 30,000, with England supporters increasingly visible on the streets of the city over the last few days.

Jones had described facing the USA starting XV as “like facing 15 Donald Trumps” in that he expects them to come out “all guns blazing” but South African coach Gary Gold, who has also coached London Irish, Newcastle and Bath as well as the Steelers, has opted for the more familiar skills of eight England based players.

Harlequins’ Paul Lasike starts at inside-centre, Saracens’ Titi Lamositele at tight-head prop and Sale’s AJ MacGinty at fly-half.

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The 29-year-old MacGinty had an excellent record off the tee for Sale last season, landing 83% of his shots at goal, while full-back Will Hooley is another familiar name to fans of the Premiership, the former England under-20s man having had spells at Northampton Saints and Exeter Chiefs before dropping down to Bedford Blues in the Championship.

England’s defence coach John Mitchell coached the Eagles from early 2016 to July 2017, helping them qualify for this World Cup before heading to South Africa to coach the Blue Bulls.

And Jones has been picking his assistant’s brains as England look to find a fluency that evaded them in their tournament opener.

Jones said: “We’ve spoke to Mitch about the psychology of the team, how they approach their games, the psychology of some of their players.

“They’re definitely playing a different sort of game to the one they used to play.

“I coached against the USA a fair bit with Japan and they were a much freer, athletic team.

“They’re now a much more pragmatic team, a team that kicks the ball a lot, with a sharp operator in MacGinty at 10, who our boys know pretty well.”


Veteran prop Dan Cole will win his 91st cap at tight-head to go joint-third with Jonny Wilkinson on England men’s all-time list, scrum-half Ben Youngs joining him if he comes off the bench as expected.

Cole was left out of Jones’ squad earlier this year but is back in his third World Cup, along with Youngs and Courtney Lawes.

Jones said: “We had a number of conversations, and I’m really proud of how Dan has fought his way back.

“At one stage it was going to be difficult for him to go to the World Cup.

“We gave him a number of things he needed to work on, he went away and worked on them tremendously hard, so it’s a great achievement for him and his family.

“To get 91 caps at tight-head for your country – particularly England, which is such a scrummaging powerhouse – gives an indication of his influence in the game.”

Ford is enjoying a run of starts at fly-half, having sat on the bench during the Six Nations as Jones preferred Owen Farrell at 10 with a Manu Tuilagi/Henry Slade combination at centre.

But his two starts in this tournament do not mean he will get the same opportunity when the sterner tests of Argentina and France come in the next two games, according to his coach.

“You should read a lot into it – George is the best 10 for the USA game,” he said.

“He just keeps evolving as a player, as do a number of our players.

“That’s what I’m most impressed about with our team – there’s a real thirst within the team to improve, and George is at the head of the queue pushing that forward.”

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