Gary Gold described England as a side with no detectable weaknesses but is confident his side will expose a few when they become the final team to debut in the tournament on Thursday night at the Kobe Misaki Stadium.
Gold, the Eagles’ head coach, refused to bite on his opposite number Eddie Jones’s remark the previous day that he expected England to come up against 15 Donald Trumps who had been training with marines.
“I do not see this as a coaching duel,” said Gold, whose career includes stints with South Africa and Kobe Steelers. “They have a hugely experienced squad with more than 600 caps: they picked a big, powerful side against Tonga and have one with real pace against us. The international exposure of our players is far less and as a coach it is all about the stock you have to work with.
“England are a very well equipped team. We have watched all their recent matches and did not find any weaknesses. We see this match, and the ones against France and Argentina, which we relish because we do not often play tier one nations, as an opportunity to show how much we have improved since the last World Cup and that we can go toe-to-toe with the top sides for long periods.”
Gold would like England to be lulled into thinking that victory is assured and all that is to be settled is the margin, but when the sides met in the 2007 World Cup in Lille, the US, who looked less equipped for the rigours of a World Cup then, proved obdurate opponents in what was a hard-fought 28-10 victory for the team that went on to reach the final.
“I think Japan’s victory over South Africa four years ago changed the mindset of the nations below tier one,” said Gold. “Tonga beat France in 2011 [and Fiji knocked out Wales in 2007] and I think that the gap, while still quite wide, is closing, if slowly. We do not have anything to lose, other than the game, and the pressure will be on England.
“No one gives us a chance but maybe we can could put some doubt in their minds and get them asking what if. This is the first World Cup when we have had a fully professional squad, with players either involved in our league, which is growing, or based in Europe. We want to give England a good run for their money.”
Gold did not mention the USA’s victory over Scotland last year, their first over a tier one nation, when they rallied from 21-6 down in Houston. Eight of that starting line-up will take the field on Thursday and six are based in England.
“I do not see our task in this group as daunting but it is difficult,” said Gold. “What is clear is that countries like the US, Georgia, Japan, Fiji, Samoa and Tonga need far greater exposure to tier one countries in between World Cups. The Nations league plan has collapsed: I am not a politician so I do not know why but there is no way the rest of us should be feeding off the scraps that fall from the top table. The schedule needs locking at.”