Eddie Jones warns new-look England at Rugby World Cup: play for the team, not yourselves

Coach fears fringe players could put personal ambitions first in Pool C match against the USA

England's Joe Cokanasiga, left and Ruaridh McConnochiem right, are set to make their Rugby World Cup debuts against the USA on Thursday. PA
England's Joe Cokanasiga, left and Ruaridh McConnochiem right, are set to make their Rugby World Cup debuts against the USA on Thursday. PA

England coach Eddie Jones has warned his new-look side against putting personal ambitions ahead of team success when they face the United States 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 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. And 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."

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.

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 team-mate of Cole, will also win his 91st cap if he comes off the bench. And the evening showdown will provide a test of England's handling skills, as the temperature will be 25°C with a humidity of 78 per cent.

"Ball control is an area we'll look to improve on judging by running around out there just now," Youngs said after training on Wednesday.

England head coach Eddie Jones, centre, looks on during England's training session in Kobe on Wednesday. Getty
England head coach Eddie Jones, centre, looks on during England's training session in Kobe on Wednesday. Getty

"It's pretty humid and pretty slippery. It will be a good chance to test how well we've worked on that because training has been pretty minimal this week, just walk throughs."

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 United States but five of Gold's starting line-up play in the English Premiership, with fly-half 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 defence chief John Mitchell was the Eagles' head coach when they qualified for Japan 2019, before the former All Blacks boss joined Jones's staff.

"Mitch made an indelible mark on USA rugby," said current Eagles head coach Gary 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. From day one, we've been working towards this thanks to John.

"He brought a lot of structure, he brought a lot of intellect, he brought a great work ethic."

USa players training at the Kobe Misaki Stadium on Wednesday, ahead of their Rugby World Cup Pool C match against England. AFP
USA players training at the Kobe Misaki Stadium on Wednesday, ahead of their Pool C match against England. AFP

Updated: September 25, 2019 03:28 PM

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