Eddie Jones has named a formidable side for England’s second match of the World Cup, against the untested United States.
Just five players have been retained in the starting XV from the team that scored a bonus point win over Tonga earlier this week.
In the front row, recent returnee Joe Marler will again pack down on the looshead. He will be joined by Luke Cowan-Dickie and Dan Cole. It will be Cole’s 91st Test for England, putting him on equal footing with Jonny Wilkinson as the third most-capped Red Rose international.
The second row is completely overhauled, with Joe Launchbury and George Kruis coming in for Maro Itoje and Courtney Lawes.
In the loose forwards, Billy Vunipola and Tom Curry retain their spots at 8 and 6, respectively, with Lewis Ludlam slotting in on the openside.
New Zealand-born Willi Heinz takes over the halfback duties with Ben Youngs dropping to the bench. Youngs, should he enter the fray, will match Dan Cole and Jonny Wilkinson for 91 test caps.
George Ford remains at 10 for England and will take the captain’s armband from Owen Farrell, who has been replaced in the midfield by Piers Francis. Francis will partner with Jonathan Joseph, who looked dangerous when he joined the fray late against Tonga.
Ruaridh McConnochie and Joe Cocanasiga come onto the wings and will be looking to play their hearts out after Anthony Watson impressed in England’s first match of their campaign. Elliot Daly remains at fullback.
Coach Jones was confident that the quick turnaround between matches won’t hamper England’s performance against the Eagles – who have yet to play a match in the World Cup.
“The four-day turnaround is something we experimented with against Japan last autumn and so the players have had some experience of it,” said Jones.
“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.”
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The massive changes mean that England may struggle for some continuity early on, but it’s necessary to keep players fresh for when England close out their pool with high-stakes matches against Argentina and France.
Still, Jones doesn’t believe he’s fielding a ‘B’ team at all.
“It is our best 23 and 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.”
England and the USA have squared off five times before, with three of those matches coming in previous Rugby World Cups. The last time the two sides met was in the 2007 iteration of the tournament, with England triumphing 28-10.
The match will kick off in Kobe at 7:45PM (JST).
England: Elliot Daly, Ruaridh McConnochie, Jonathan Joseph, Piers Francis, Joe Cokanasiga, George Ford, Willi Heinz, Billy Vunipola, Lewis Ludlam, Tom Curry, George Kruis, Joe Launchbury, Dan Cole, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Joe Marler. Res: Jack Singleton, Ellis Genge, Kyle Sinckler, Courtney Lawes, Mark Wilson, Ben Youngs, Owen Farrell, Anthony Watson.
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