England ensured maximum points from their first two World Cup games with a straightforward win against the USA.
Eddie Jones’ side scored seven tries in a 45-7 win, but will now face far sterner tests in the shape of Argentina and France to come.
The picturesque port city of Kobe played host, offering up very hot and humid conditions for both sides to deal with, and while England may not have been spectacular, it was a controlled performance throughout.
Unsurprisingly, England rang the changes given the four day turnaround after their first pool game against Tonga.
Only five of the starters from the 35-3 win over the Pacific Islanders retained their place, with one of those, fly-half George Ford, captaining the side. Wingers Ruaridh McConnochie and Joe Cokanasiga and centre Piers Francis made their World Cup debuts.
For the USA, Sale’s fly-half AJ MacGinty was one of six England-based players to make the USA squad, including Quins’ Paul Lasike at centre and Saracens prop Titi Lamositele, while former Leicester Tigers wing Blaine Scully was given the armband.
Jones has asked for a faster start than the Tonga game and got it. Five minutes in and England scored with their first opportunity to get the ball through their hands. Advancing down the left wing the ball came quickly inside to George Ford, who found a gap to race through and under the posts.
An early score down and very quickly the USA scrum began to creak. Having lost loose head David Ainuu in the first couple of minutes to injury, Dan Cole, winning his 91st cap for England, enjoyed a dominant day out and fully justified his squad selection with an authoritative outing.
Despite the early try the floodgates didn’t quite open. England adopted a clear tactic to kick the ball from their back three and waited to prey on mistakes, particularly at set-pieces, but it took a while to take effect. It wasn’t until the 25th minute that they added to their total and it came from a line-out, with Billy Vunipola rumbling over when the USA offering very little in the way of organised resistance.
When Luke Cowan-Dickie went over from another rolling maul for England’s third score shortly after, the signs looked ominous for the Americans.
For England, It was a powerful and organised performance, with a dominant front five being brilliantly marshalled by a well-worked tactical game from Ford; the Leicester man’s constantly asking questions of the opposition throughout the half.
For the second 40, with the game virtually in the bag, Jones’ rang the changes in the pack. Vunipola, Joe Marler and Cole all made way, with Mark Wilson, Ellis Genge and Kyle Sinckler coming on to add mobility in the front row.
They swiftly secured an attacking bonus point at the beginning of the half thanks to a slippery break from Jonathan Joseph, the centre spinning away from two defenders and flying forward. The Bath man was stopped just short of the line but his club teammate Cokanasiga collected and scored.
When another Bath boy, this time McConnochie, scored in virtually the same part of the field, England were 31 points to the good and yet to be troubled on their own try line.
Lewis Ludlam added another, but what had been a fairly quiet game suddenly ignited for the wrong reasons when the tournament’s first red card was shown. With Owen Farrell knocking on and the play effectively ended, John Quill’s shoulder barge directly to Owen Farrell’s jaw was a cheap shot and an easy red for the ref to give.
Lewis Ludlam and Cokanasiga added more onto the scoreline, but the USA also managed to do so themselves with the last move of the match when Bryce Campbell slid over. It would have been the first time England had managed to hold a side to nil in the World Cup, but they fell just short.
Without setting off any fireworks, Jones will be pleased that his team came through without picking up an injuries, particularly Farrell after the bad hit on him late on.
The USA ultimately deserved a try for their efforts, but were outclassed in every department and must now regroup for France on Wednesday. England have well over a week until they face the Pumas in Tokyo a week on Saturday.
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