Playing Billy Vunipola against USA is not a risk, insists Eddie Jones

first_imgShare on WhatsApp Rugby World Cup Nick Evans The aerial battle will be the key to unlocking defences in World Cup The day after England’s scratchy victory over Tonga, Ludlam explained how the players had barely turned their attentions to the USA and that it would be primarily done in Wednesday’s training session.Jones, though, has been preparing for this match for some time. Against Japan last November he curtailed his side’s preparation to replicate this four-day turnaround and made 11 changes to his starting XV. On Tuesday the players went out for lunch to sample Kobe’s famous beef; in the week leading up to Japan, Jones arranged a sushi night at the team hotel.Against Japan, however, England were dreadful in the first half, run ragged by the fleet-footed Brave Blossoms with Owen Farrell having to come on at half-time to turn the tide. It is no surprise then that Farrell is again on the bench, just in case. Indeed, Jones was so displeased with that first half that it ended, or at least put on hold, a few international careers – none of Danny Care, Alex Lozowski or Zach Mercer has played for England since. “We could have the same problems,” said the head coach. “It’s difficult having a quick turnaround. There’s no quick solution to it but we feel it’s maybe more psychological than physical.”Only three players who started against Japan are due to line up against the USA but, if that November afternoon made Jones rip up his plans in terms of personnel, it came together again last month. Just as the side who beat Tonga contained 13 of the team who thrashed Ireland in the warm-up series, so the XV named on Tuesday has 12 survivors from the team picked to face Wales in Cardiff. Maybe that is why Jones was so happy after that match despite the defeat. They may have narrowly lost but there was no going off script. England rugby union team Was this helpful? England team to face USAElliot Daly; Ruaridh McConnochie, Jonathan Joseph, Piers Francis, Joe Cokanasiga; George Ford (capt), 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  Show Share on LinkedIn Eddie Jones bristled at the suggestion he is taking a risk by on Tuesday naming Billy Vunipola to start for the second time in five days against the USA, and issuing a stark warning to the 10 new faces in his England side. Vunipola is one of five players who will keep their place in the starting lineup for England’s second World Cup match on Thursday but it is those incoming at the forefront of Jones’s mind.This will be Vunipola’s 11th successive appearance for England – he was the only player to start all four warm‑up matches – but, given his recent injury history, concerns would seem justified. Before the first of those 11 games he managed two Tests in two years and in the second of those he broke his arm for the second time. Jones, though, is adamant “the best way to keep him fit is to play him”. Moreover Mark Wilson is not quite ready to start, so the head coach’s options at No 8 are limited.“I’ve got to pick 23 so by definition there has to be players backing up,” said Jones. “So what do you want me to do, go in with less players?”Vunipola is joined in backing up by George Ford, who captains the side, Tom Curry, who Jones says needs more experience at blindside flanker, Elliot Daly and Joe Marler. There is no Henry Slade because of his knee injury, though Jones claimed he could have played if needed, but Joe Cokanasiga and Ruaridh McConnochie come into the side on the wings and Dan Cole, who moves joint-third on the list of England’s record appearance holders, will also start, as will Lewis Ludlam. Share via Email The Breakdown: sign up and get our weekly rugby union email. Read more Rugby union Share on Facebook Topics Since you’re here… … we have a small favour to ask. More people are reading and supporting The Guardian’s independent, investigative journalism than ever before. And unlike many new organisations, we have chosen an approach that allows us to keep our journalism accessible to all, regardless of where they live or what they can afford. 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Reuse this content Rugby World Cup 2019 Hide Thank you for your feedback. Jones recalled on Tuesday a pool match when working with South Africa in 2007 against Tonga. The Springboks squeezed to a 30-25 victory en route to lifting the trophy but Jones saw a number of fringe players putting personal gain before the collective. “That’s the danger for us,” the England head coach said. “It can happen in the second or the third game, where players who might think it’s their only game of the World Cup go out there and they try to play for themselves rather than play for the team.”That may go some way to explaining why Marler has retained his place in the side. It is not hard to imagine him and Cole as the enforcers within the squad. They sit at the back of the England team bus and no doubt keep the youngsters in line. “This squad is quite young, so having those older two props is quite important,” Jones said.It also emphasises the importance of Ford on Thursday. He was captain against Japan – a tough afternoon for him, says Jones – but he has been a part of all but one of Jones’s 46 matchday Test squads. “It could be easy to try and be impressive and try to stand out individually,” Ford said.“I think we’ll be fine but it’s something we’ve got to keep our eye on in the next 24-48 hours. In a funny sort of way when you’ve got only three or four days you get right down to the nitty gritty of the plan.” Support The Guardian Share on Pinterest Quick guide England team to face USA Share on Twitter Share on Messengerlast_img read more