England head coach Eddie Jones has made ten changes from the side which beat Tonga for the Test against USA on Thursday, with the team looking thin at half-back as Henry Slade deals with a knee injury.
The outside centre suffered a recurrence of the problem in the 35-3 win, the same injury which caused him to miss all of England’s warm-up matches in preparation for the tournament.
Slade’s value as a player who can cover for fly-halves Owen Farrell and George Ford is significant, but his absence is eased by the presence of Piers Francis who will start at inside centre with Ford wearing the no.10 shirt and assuming the captaincy.
The Northampton Saints back will partner Jonathan Joseph in midfield, as Manu Tuilagi is rested following his two-try display at the Sapporo Dome.
Jonny May was pulled from the action in the second half after tweaking his hamstring. And while it isn’t considered to be an issue, Jones has elected to start Joe Cokanasiga and Ruaridh McConnochie on the wings.
Elliot Daly will remain in the back three and Willi Heinz replaces Ben Youngs, who drops to the bench.
The scrum will be anchored again by Billy Vunipola in a surprise call given the number of changes Jones has made and Mark Wilson in contention for selection.
Tom Curry will also continue in the back row against the Eagles but Lewis Ludlam starts on the openside in place of Sam Underhill.
Jones has named a new second-row combination of Joe Launchbury and George Kruis among changes made to the tight five.
Joe Marler will pack down at loosehead once again but Luke Cowan-Dickie and Dan Cole are promoted from the bench.
England: 15 Elliot Daly, 14 Ruaridh McConnochie, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Piers Francis, 11 Joe Cokanasiga, 10 George Ford (capt), 9 Willi Heinz; 1 Joe Marler, 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 3 Dan Cole, 4 Joe Launchbury, 5 George Kruis, 6 Tom Curry, 7 Lewis Ludlam, 8 Billy Vunipola
Replacements: 16 Jack Singleton, 17 Ellis Genge, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 Courtney Lawes, 20 Mark Wilson, 21 Ben Youngs, 22 Owen Farrell, 23 Anthony Watson
The match against England marks the USA’s first match of the World Cup.
Gary Gold’s side showed signs of encouragement in reaching the final of the Pacific Nations Cup in August, loosing 34-20 to Japan.
Given the luxury of the USA coming into the game fresh, Jones spoke about the team’s efforts to reduce the effects of a quick turnaround from Sunday’s game against Tonga.
“The four-day turnaround is something we experimented with against Japan last autumn and so the players have had some experience of it,” Jones said.
“You have to make sure the two days before the game are exactly the same as you would normally have for any other game.
“So for us, it’s a short and fast run on Wednesday and today is an active recovery day. What I see now is players handling it really well but the game on Thursday will be the litmus test.
“We have looked at some players that would benefit not playing in this game so have kept them out of the 23. But it is a great opportunity for another set of players to do the team proud.”
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