KOBE, Japan (AP)The United States will open its Rugby World Cup against England with four players who play in the top English league in its starting XV.
Hooker Joe Taufete’e, prop Titi Lamositele, flyhalf AJ MacGinty and center Paul Lasike all ply their trade in the English Premiership, as does reserve back Bryce Campbell.
Starting lock Ben Landry and fullback Will Hooley and reserve lock Greg Peterson also play in the lower leagues in England, meaning there’s eight players in total in the U.S. squad who are attached to English clubs.
Captain and wing Blaine Scully previously played for England’s Leicester Tigers.
The Eagles lineup for their opening game against the 2003 champion in Kobe on Thursday is rich in English experience, then, and head coach Gary Gold hopes there’s enough familiarity there to help the U.S.
There’s no easy game for the Eagles this year as they seek a first Rugby World Cup win since knocking over Russia in 2011. After England, the U.S. plays two other Tier One nations in France and Argentina and ends the pool against Tonga.
The Americans will also start 19-year-old prop David Ainu’u of Toulouse alongside Taufete’e and Lamositele. He’s one of 14 out of the 23 who will be making their World Cup debuts.
The U.S. squad has been preparing in Okinawa and only travels to Kobe for the game this week. England opened its World Cup by beating Tonga 35-3 on Sunday. England wasn’t convincing against the Tongans in Sapporo but coach Eddie Jones said his players want to ramp up their performance against the Americans.
”We have massive respect for England as they are a very well-coached and talented rugby team,” Gold said. ”These are exactly the kind of competitive test matches we want to play to continuously test ourselves and grow as a rugby nation.”
American scrumhalf Shaun Davies can also call on some experience playing the English. He went on an under-20 tour to England in 2010 and lined up against current England captain Owen Farrell and flyhalf George Ford.
Ford and Farrell played at flyhalf and inside center for England against Tonga on Sunday and Davies might face them both again in Kobe.
”I played against a young Owen Farrell at Saracens,” Davies said in an interview on the Rugby World Cup website. ”I also played against George Ford when he was at Leicester. I think George was about 16 and he carved us up.
”George was pinging the ball into the corners, his boot was impeccable, and we thought, `who is this kid?’
”I looked at the team sheet after the game and thought, `I’ll remember that name’. You could tell at that stage those two were going to come through and be something amazing.”
England beat the Eagles 28-10 at the 2007 World Cup and it’ll be a tough asker for the U.S. to close that gap this year.
U.S. lineup: Will Hooley, Blaine Scully (captain), Marcel Brache, Paul Lasike, Martin Iosefo, AJ MacGinty, Shaun Davies; Cam Dolan, John Quill, Tony Lamborn, Nick Civetta, Ben Landry, Titi Lamositele, Joe Taufete’e, David Ainu’u. Reserves: Dylan Fawsitt, Olive Kilifi, Paul Mullen, Greg Peterson, Hanco Germishuys, Ruben de Haas, Bryce Campbell, Mike Te’o.
More AP Rugby World Cup: https://www.apnews.com/RugbyWorldCup and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports