The Eagles Stay Grounded

374 English

On the back of an unconvincing win against Tonga, the pressure was on England to perform against one of the better tier 2 nations at this years’ World Cup. Considering the four day rest they had before playing the fresh American Eagles, England did splendidly. With three first half tries and four in the second, the boys in red dominated from start to finish, leaving the Eagles firmly grounded.

Jones made ten changes to the team that faced Tonga under the Sapporo Dome, including Cowan-Dickie at hooker, Ludlam at 7 and Heinz at 9. Furthermore, there were three World Cup debutants in Piers Francis at 12, Joe Cokanasiga at 11 and Ruaridh McConnochie at 14, two of whom bagged tries. This shake up of the classic starting XV, whilst not surprising given the short turnover, perhaps enticed the Americans, giving them hope that an upset may be on the cards. Perhaps they could of, on a different day in a different place. But on September 26th in Kobe Mizaki stadium every player with a rose on his chest went onto that pitch with the sole goal of giving Eddie Jones a mighty headache when it comes to selection. As he always has been, Jonathon Joseph was an utter handful at outside centre, getting involved all over the pitch and with his signature darting runs creating constant chaos within the American defence, one of which led to the Cokanasiga try on the 47th minute. Speaking of, Cokanasiga himself was a devil to deal with on the wing, as was the 7s silver medallist McConnochie on the other side. Both Ludlam and Curry has huge 80 minute shifts, making 26 runs between them with an average length of 3 metres a run (with Ludlam making more tackles than any other English player and bagging his own try). Luke Cowan-Dickie was very solid at 2, securing 13 lineouts and scoring a try in the 32nd minute off he back of a dominant maul that harried the Americans throughout he game. Mark Wilson was an exceptional replacement for Billy Vunipola, making more runs and more metres in the same space of time (though as American energy dwindled evermore). Last, but certainly by no means least, the beastly prop replacements in the form of Ellis Genge and Kyle Sinckler, both making huge runs (the former bypassing multiple defenders on a huge gallop that set up the Cokanasiga try on the 75th minute) and securing an already strong scrum. Indeed, Eddie Jones certainly has plenty of options to choose from when England face Argentina on October 5th.

Much has been made of the English lineout, and with good reason; England won 16/17 of their lineouts (compared to 8/10 for the USA), showing their dominance in that area. However, the focus should be on how they retained possession. One of the biggest problems arising from the Tonga match was the sheer volume of knock on infringements. The more knock ons, the more scrums; the more scrums, the more fatigued yours forwards become; the more fatigued your forwards, the more handling errors occur, and so on. Against a huge scrum like Tonga’s, we saw what happens; with some discipline and a solid gameplan, England can be kept somewhat at bay, unable to utilise the forward game they love so much. However, with the simple ability of keeping possession of the ball, the forwards could maintain their strength while the backs can stretch their legs. At 70% possession throughout the match, England looked much more in control, albeit conceding a try right at the death of the game. At no point, other than those frantic final minutes, did England ever look like conceding a point, let alone a try. In addition, their discipline has vastly improved, giving away a mere four penalties to America’s eleven. To further demonstrate England’s control, it goes to show how all their points came from tried and conversions; every penalty they got was either tapped or sent to touch, with the aim of getting more tires. This greed (or, perhaps, arrogance) is more like he England of old, somewhat reminiscent of Robinson’s forays down the wing and Johnson’s barking at the lineout. It is early days still to say whether this team could go all the way as the 2003 team did, but if they keep improving as they have been doing, it may not be so inconceivable.

Owen Farrell got absolutely SMASHED with the "Owen no arm Special" 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿🇺🇸😳

Pubblicato da MegaRugby su Giovedì 26 settembre 2019

Being the first match for the Eagles, they still have everything to play for. In this ‘Group of Death’, the USA were never expected to do particularly well. Hardly surprising; they only began their first professional rugby union league last year with Major League Rugby. With three victories against Canada and a surprising win over Samoa in recent times, things do seem to be improving for the American rugby scene, but for them to truly challenge at the highest level is a fair way off yet. There are sparks of talent in this team, with England often targeting hooker Joe Taufete’e to ensure his minimal contribution; AJ Macginty showing some level of game control with his kicking and making the most runs in his team; and replacement fullback Mike Te’o starting the breakaway that eventually got the consolation try. But their lack of structure, poor set piece execution and few big game experiences cost them dearly as the clock ticked on, though their spirit never waned. It is unlikely we shall see the USA upset Argentina or France in the coming weeks, but their match with Tonga could well be worth a watch.

No rugby match ever has a guaranteed outcome, just look at the Fiji Uruguay game, or the miracle in Brighton in 2015. But Jones must be rather happy with his choices, considering how this match played out. A much more disciplined and determined victory, made by men who – until now – were likely to play off off the bench for England. Considering the sheer physicality of the game in Kobe, it is fair to say that the team has earned a slight rest before the competition for top spot in pool C truly begins. Can Argentina stop the rising sons of England, or will the rose continue to bloom?

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