England v USA: How did the newer and fringe players do?

Against the USA, for England’s second game at the World Cup, coach Eddie Jones decided to change his squad around, as it was only a four-day turnaround. This is what I thought of the players making their first major appearances at the 2019 tournament, and in some cases their World Cup debuts:

Ruaridh McConnochie – The Bath winger concentrated well throughout the game, and in particular, he ensured that when there was an attack on the flank from the USA, he tackled the player and forced him into touch. He was also very willing to chase box kicks, as any winger should be. His back line partnership with Jonathan Joseph, his club teammate, was especially effective for England, and allowed him to score the fourth try for the team.


Joe Cokanasiga – Another Bath player, he is not new to the international stage, having featured for England in the Six Nations and impressed. Against the USA, he was pacy and was willing to run through players as well. He scored his try after good work and a long run from substitute Leicester player Ellis Genge, which was surprising given that Genge is a prop, but Cokanasiga was there to tidy up and go over.


Jonathan Joseph – Joseph was another who was prepared to run through players and attack, which is what he has always done very well. He was everywhere in the game – wherever there was space to attack and move the ball around, he was there. This included being a winger when McConnochie and Cokanasiga where needed elsewhere. This versatility was even more evident when he set up McConnochie for the fourth try.


Piers Francis – A debutant who had a relatively quiet debut compared to some others on the pitch, Northampton Centre Francis was willing to make runs and help create opportunities, which was pleasing to see given it was his first competitive international game for his country.


Willi Heinz – It was evident from the start that the Gloucester scrum-half was willing to get involved, and that led to him giving away a few slightly soft penalties, such as tackling the man without the ball inside the first five minutes. His enthusiasm, however, has to be commended. He was also absolutely everywhere in the first half, making passes, tackling well, and just played well throughout.


Luke Cowan-Dickie – Starting in place of first-choice Jamie George, the Saracens hooker was a force in the middle of the pitch. He constantly wanted to make things happen and create opportunities, driving the USA backwards all the time. The third try for England, which was scored by him, was really well worked, and it was his second try in two games, having scored against Tonga in the opener too.


Lewis Ludlam – Ludlam was just outstanding throughout the match. The Northampton Saints flanker worked hard, pushed well when the ball was on the ground, and deservedly got his try. He was a handful for the American players to manage, and England are fortunate to have him. He is still only 23, so there will be much more to come and to look forward to from him.


Jack Singleton – A positive first appearance at the World Cup from the hooker, who left Worcester Warriors to rejoin Saracens this summer. He is unlikely to make too many appearances at this tournament, as Jamie George and Luke Cowan-Dickie are ahead of him in the pecking order for the no.2 shirt, but he is one for the future, as he is another who is only 23.


Ellis Genge – The Leicester prop was happy to get involved when he came on in the second half, and it was his run that led to England fifth try, and it was a very good run considering that that is not what he is on the pitch to do necessarily. Considering that there are several props fighting for England spots (Joe Marler, Kyle Sinckler, Dan Cole, Genge, Ben Moon and Harry Williams have all played for the team in the last few years), this performance did nothing to dampen his national side pedigree.


Mark Wilson – The 29 year old Newcastle utility player was impressive when he came on, and was constantly involved. He can play at blindside flanker or Number 8, so offers that to the side. He was impressive for Newcastle last season, and following the Falcons’ relegation to the Championship, he has signed on a season-long loan for Sale Sharks for 2018-2019, so we will get to see more of him this year.

The final result was important, or course – it is the World Cup. But I think Eddie Jones will have been keeping an eye on all of these players to see how they faired in a competitive international match, and all of them displayed something which will have pleased the England head coach.

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