KOBE, Japan (AFP) – England coach Eddie Jones warned of his new-look side against putting personal ambitions ahead of team success when they face the United States (US) in the Rugby World Cup.
Jones has made 10 changes to the team that beat Tonga 35-3 in their Pool C opener last weekend for tonight’s match against the Eagles in Kobe.
This will be England’s second successive match against Tier Two opposition ahead of group games against fellow heavyweights Argentina and France.
And Jones is wary of the risks that come with fringe players in his squad trying to stake a claim for a starting place.
“That’s the danger for us in these games,” said Jones, a consultant to the South Africa that won the 2007 World Cup. “I’ve seen it with South Africa playing against
Tonga with players who might think it’s their only game of the tournament so they try to play for themselves rather than play for the team.
“So one of the most important things in this game is that the players play for the team. And if they play for the team they put themselves in a better selection mix. The US are going to be passionate. We know that they will play for their country hard.”
Despite all the changes to his side, Jones has retained Billy Vunipola for what will be the number eight’s 11th successive Test start.
The 26-year-old is seen as vital to England’s chances of winning the World Cup, but even though he broke his arm on three separate occasions last year, Jones had no qualms over the dynamic back-row’s current workload.
“We want him in his best condition and his best condition is to play rugby,” said Jones, the coach of his native Australia when they were beaten by England in the 2003 World Cup final.
Asked if he was taking a risk, Jones said, “It’s a risk Billy going out and eating Kobe beef! It’s much better he plays rugby than goes out and eats beef.”
England prop Dan Cole will win his 91st cap equalling Jonny Wilkinson’s mark to become the country’s joint third most-capped player.
Cole has had to fight his way back in, with the renowned scrummager improving his fitness and form in open play.
“I am very pleased to be at the World Cup and being left out you realise what a privilege it is to play for England,” said Cole.
Scrum half Ben Youngs, a Leicester teammate of Cole, will also win his 91st cap if he comes off the bench.
Meanwhile, wing Joe Cokanasiga will bolster England’s backline after Jones rested Manu Tuilagi following the centre’s try double against Tonga.
This is the first World Cup since the launch of Major League Rugby in the US but five of Gold’s starting line-up play in the English Premiership with fly-half AJ MacGinty at Sale.
Tonight’s match will be the first time the teams have met since England beat the Eagles 28-10 at the 2007 World Cup in France.