England look to Mitchell for inside knowledge of USA

SAPPORO, Japan (AFP) – England are set to call upon defence coach John Mitchell’s inside knowledge when they face the United States (US) in their second Rugby World Cup match in Kobe on Thursday.

The New Zealander was Eagles head coach when they qualified for Japan 2019. He then returned to club rugby in South Africa before joining Eddie Jones’s England set-up last year.

England opened their campaign with a 35-3 Pool C win over Tonga in Sapporo last Sunday but Thursday’s match in Kobe will be the US tournament opener.

England scrum coach Neal Hatley said former All Blacks head coach Mitchell’s inside knowledge would prove especially useful given England have just a four-day turnaround between matches.

“Obviously having Mitch is handy and his historical knowledge having worked with them just a few short years ago. There are a lot of players he brought through and knows well,” Hatley told reporters at England’s hotel in Sapporo yesterday.

“The analysis on the USA has already been done because this is their first match,” he added.

“We have looked at what they did in the Autumn and their Pacific Nations Cup games. Things may get changed on the back of what happened last night but the work has been done.

“It was Tonga’s first game last night and this will be America’s first game on Thursday. We expect them to come out like Tonga did – fizzing.”

As for the short gap between matches, Hatley said, “It’s a four-day turnaround, we’ve just got to get on with it. We’ve been looking at the combinations potentially but selection is pretty fluid and things change. But we have plans in place.”

England were far from their best against Tonga but still secured a bonus-point win without conceding a try to the Pacific islanders.

“A scratchy start but a win, a bonus-point win – objective achieved, but plenty to work on,” said Hatley.

“Defensively, we were very good, held them to no tries. Ball in hand, where we have been very good, we made a few uncharacteristic errors that we will have a look at.”

Meanwhile England back-row Lewis Ludlam, who came off the bench in the 54th minute at the indoor Sapporo Dome to win just his third cap, said, “It was awesome.

“I was really happy to get on the pitch and to get the five points was really good and we’re off to a start now and out of the blocks.

“I wasn’t too nervous, just impatient and excited more than anything. I wanted to get on the pitch, get out there and show the coaches what I can do on a bigger stage,” he added.

England found themselves in a physical battle last Sunday, with even powerhouse No 8 Billy Vunipola, son of a former Tonga international, knocked back in the tackle.