England choose attrition rather than razzle-dazzle to deal with USA

first_imgShare via Email Cokanasiga helps England crush USA as Quill gets World Cup’s first red card Read more Rugby union High hits and Ford’s finesse: five things learned from England 45-7 USA Steve Hansen reflected this week on how much European teams had improved since the 2015 World Cup when, for the first time, they failed to provide a semi-finalist. In Japan this time around there should be at least one semi-finalist from the north, more likely two. The group match between Wales and Australia on Sunday will reveal more but, at a World Cup in which the team with the best defence has tended to prevail, the deliberation with which they have started the tournament – no nonsense and fewer frills – has not been lost on New Zealand’s coach. It is there where England have an advantage over their two European rivals. Wales have more depth than they did in 2015 but their starting lineup picks itself behind and there are only two real talking points at forward, loosehead prop and where Josh Navidi should play in the back row. They are more adept at playing catchup than England and Ireland, but they look the most susceptible to injuries.Ireland have more options, but not as many as England who as well as strength in depth have pace to go with their power – but it is the way all three are able to resist temptation that will pose the greatest threat to New Zealand, who waited in vain for Ireland to crack in Dublin last year.All three countries are coached by men from the southern hemisphere who, were they working with teams in their own countries, would have a different approach. They are making the most of what they have, patience against the virtuosity of the holders. Share on WhatsApp England rugby union team features Share on Facebook Reuse this content Topics There was a frenetic energy to his side’s match against South Africa, as if winning without style was not enough, that has not been imported by the Europeans: Ireland fed off mistakes against Scotland, Wales confounded Georgia by moving the ball quickly from set‑pieces and England, having ground down Tonga, were as remorseless against the USA.New Zealand dare, England wear down. They led 19-0 at half‑time having shut out their opponents, just as they had restricted Tonga to a penalty. They should have exposed a narrow defence more, but Eddie Jones would have been most irritated by a loose pass from Billy Vunipola near the break that would have given Shaun Davies a run to the line but for the quick reaction of Willi Heinz.Otherwise, the USA were frozen out, unable to seek refuge in any part of the game. Their head coach, Gary Gold, had said the previous day that despite a desperate search he could find no detectable weaknesses with England. There were a few on display here, not least passing and decision-making, but what he had not found the answer to was how to loosen the chokehold they impose on opponents.Ireland and Wales also minimise risk, profiting from the pressure they exert in defence. Ireland’s tries on Sunday came from Scotland’s mistakes while Wales’s grand slam success this year was founded on what they did without the ball. It is a different approach to New Zealand and, when Hansen talked about Europe having raised the bar, they have become far more difficult to beat.England, Wales and Ireland are the products of high-quality coaching. Gameplans are tailored on strengths, which do not include the innate understanding of New Zealanders, and England were at their least impressive here when throwing the ball around with victory secured, in the USA’s territory rather than their own: even a George Ford pass found the grass after a neat loop.The ball was slippery by then but, where the All Blacks are about the speed of their reactions and their capacity to improvise, England’s opening two matches were notable for the total control they exerted. The USA were given little hope of winning, but they thought they would cause problems for opponents who had played four days before and made 10 changes.Gold prepared his squad meticulously and had them together for three months. As the last team to feature in the tournament, they spent more than a week in Okinawa, training in the heat and humidity for nights such as this, practising defence in repeated bursts of 150 seconds to enhance their composure and decision‑making in the heat of battle.England gave them nothing. The USA spent 81% of the match in their own half. They did score a try, at the very end, which irked Jones but one of the stronger tier-two nations, one made up of professional players, was overwhelmed by a team some way below full strength. Read more Rugby World Cup Support The Guardian US sports Share on Twitter … we have a small favour to ask. More people are reading and supporting The Guardian’s independent, investigative journalism than ever before. And unlike many new organisations, we have chosen an approach that allows us to keep our journalism accessible to all, regardless of where they live or what they can afford. 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