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91 v 19: England's Cole ready for U.S. prop Ainuu

91 v 19: England's Cole ready for U.S. prop Ainuu
Rugby Union - England Training - Pennyhill Park, Bagshot, Britain - August 23, 2019 England's Dan Cole during training Action Images via Reuters/Matthew Childs -
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By Peter Rutherford

KOBE, Japan (Reuters) – England’s front row will give due respect to 19-year-old U.S. prop David Ainuu in their Pool C match in Kobe on Thursday but scrum coach Neal Hatley predicts it will be a “baptism of fire” for the Toulouse loosehead when he faces Dan Cole.

Cole worked hard on his game to get back in the squad after being dropped last year and the 32-year-old will earn his 91st cap in England’s second match of the tournament, tying Jonny Wilkinson for third on their all-time appearances list.

Despite the experience gap, Hatley says U.S. coach Gary Gold had good reason to select Ainuu, who will win just his ninth cap on Thursday.

“He wouldn’t have put him in if he didn’t think he was capable,” he told a news conference on Wednesday. “He played against Japan and he did a really good job there. So he’ll get the respect he deserves as a starting international loosehead.

“Some of the players are getting younger and younger and it’s a great baptism of fire for him.

“Dan relishes all scrum battles, he’ll be looking forward to it.”

The standard of refereeing in Japan has been the subject of much debate, with World Rugby issuing a statement on Tuesday conceding that the officiating over the first weekend of the World Cup was not up to scratch.

But Hatley said he had no reason to complain about the officiating so far and said the referee in their 35-3 win over Tonga on Sunday was consistent.

“We had Paul Williams first game, he came in and told us what he was going to deliver and did exactly that,” said Hatley.

“He did exactly what he said he was going to do so we can’t ask for more than that.”

The improved showing of the tier-two nations has been a feature of the World Cup so far but while Japan’s stunning victory over the Springboks in 2015 shook the rugby world to its core, Hatley said England had no reason to factor shocks like that into their preparation.

“I think you’ve seen how hard some of the tier-two nations have worked, how impressive they’ve been,” he added. “What happened with Japan and South Africa holds no relevance to us.

“This is about us, the next step, game two of our World Cup pool. We haven’t looked at anything other than America, preparing for them, and what we’re doing.”

(Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)

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