Rugby World Cup: England v USA / Italy v Canada6 min read
England stutter during opening win
England made a winning start to the World Cup although it is fair to say Eddie Jones’ side rarely got out of second gear against Tonga. Their 35-3 victory in Sapporo on Sunday was enough to secure a try bonus point but England’s performance certainly will not have overly worried their rivals for the Webb Ellis Cup.
Manu Tuilagi was the pick of England’s backline, with the centre demonstrating his effortless power with two tries. Hooker Jamie George also scored before replacement Luke Cowan-Dickie added a late fourth try.
England have been handed a gentle start to the tournament in Japan and Jones’ team will not need to step up their level considerably until pool games against France and Argentina. But the amount of handling errors and misplaced passes against Tonga underlined significant improvement will be necessary to threaten the likes of holders New Zealand during the knockout stages.
Back in action just four days after their opener, England make ten changes to their side with George Ford captaining the team at fly-half. Billy Vunipola is one of only five players to keep their place in the side and George Kruis is brought into the second row. Willi Heinz starts at scrum-half with wingers Ruaridh McConnochie and Joe Cokanasiga also making their World Cup debuts.
USA will struggle to break down opponents
USA are huge outsiders against England with former Worcester and Bath coach Gary Gold tasked with masterminding their challenge in Japan. There is plenty of familiarity in their side with Sale fly-half AJ MacGinty one of four Premiership players in their team to face England. There is a massive disparity between the teams but USA will be determined to remain competitive in Kobe.
The handicap mark is set at 33 points but England have failed to cover this in their last two wins against USA. A 28-10 victory in the 2007 World Cup was the last time the two sides faced each other and England have unsurprisingly beaten them in the five previous meetings. If England come out firing, as Jones has called for them to, then 33 points is achievable but USA come into this game fresh and could keep the scoreline more competitive than anticipated.
Instead, a better angle is to back USA to score no more than ten points. Jones has complimented his team on their recent defensive work with no tries conceded in their last two games. England only shipped three points against Tonga and completely shut out Italy in their 37-0 warm-up win. The Americans could struggle to break through their powerful defence and England are fancied to restrict them to less than 11 points in another comfortable pool victory.
Italy v Canada
Italy made a winning start to their World Cup campaign after scoring seven tries in their 47-22 victory against Namibia. Conor O’Shea was not too impressed with their display against the weakest team in the group and he has made ten changes due to the quick turnaround with Dean Budd captaining Italy.
Canada are the 22nd ranked team in the world and, pitched in a group featuring New Zealand and South Africa, have no realistic chance of emulating the 1991 team which reached the quarter-finals. But Kingsley Jones’ side will be looking to cause an upset and overcome Italy in their opener.
Italy are overwhelming favourites but it could be worth backing Canada with a nine-point first-half handicap. Canada were only beaten 20-18 in their last meeting three years ago in a game which was level at half-time. Even if Canada ultimately fall short of a victory, the underdogs can keep it close during the first half.
USA to score under 10.5 points at
Canada +9.5 to win the first-half handicap at