KOBE – England coach Eddie Jones has warned his new-look side against putting personal ambitions ahead of team success when it faces the United States in the Rugby World Cup.
Jones has made 10 changes to the side that beat Tonga 35-3 in its Pool C opener last weekend for Thursday’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.
Jones is wary of the risks that come with fringe players 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 team 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 USA are going to be passionate. We know that they will play for their country hard,” he added.
Despite all the changes to his side, Jones has retained Billy Vunipola for what will be the No. 8’s 11th straight 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 rower’s current workload.
“We want him in his best condition and his best condition is to play rugby,” said Jones, who coached his native Australia in 2003, when the Wallabies were beaten by England in the World Cup final.
Asked if he was taking a risk, Jones said: “It’s a risk (to have) 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, equaling Jonny Wilkinson’s mark as the country’s 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 realize what a privilege it is to play for England,” said Cole.
Scrumhalf Ben Youngs, a Leicester team-mate 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 center’s two tries against Tonga.
On the other side, this is the first World Cup since the launch of Major League Rugby in the United States, but five of U.S. coach Gary Gold’s starting members play in the English Premiership with flyhalf AJ MacGinty at Sale.
Thursday’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.
England defense chief John Mitchell was the Eagles’ head coach when they qualified for this World Cup before the former All Blacks boss joined Jones’ staff.
“Mitch made an indelible mark on USA rugby,” Gold ahead of his side’s tournament opener.
“Firstly, the reason we’re here is because of Mitch.
“He led that team over two years ago to World Cup qualification, so nice and early with lots of time to prepare,” the South African added. “From day one, we’ve been working towards this thanks to John.”