Take Six: England and Italy shuffle their packs while France remember absent friends

There might have only been one game on Tuesday at the Rugby World Cup, but there was no shortage of news to chew over.

There might have only been one game on Tuesday at the Rugby World Cup, but there was no shortage of news to chew over.

England and Italy both named much-changed sides for their second clashes of the tournament, and France paid tribute to the men who just missed out on selection.

Meanwhile, Ireland released some positive fitness news but Ireland and Scotland had to call up reinforcements.

According to Eddie Jones, the beef in Kobe is a bigger risk to Billy Vunipola than a possible injury against the USA.

The No.8 was one of five players named to start for England on Thursday against the USA who also started against Tonga on Sunday.

The other four are George Ford, Elliot Daly, Tom Curry and Joe Marler.

The focus will be on Vunipola however, the Saracens man has now started all four warm-ups for England plus the Tonga win and played the full 80 minutes in each.

However, Jones is not concerned about England’s talisman – who brings some consistency to the short turnaround.

And such is England’s impressive strength in depth in their squad, that a much-changed side is still packed full of class.

The force of nature that is Joe Cokanasiga will come onto the wing, stalwarts Joe Launchbury and George Kruis pair up in the second row.

And there are also milestones in the offing, Dan Cole set to join Jonny Wilkinson on 91 caps – the third most in English history – after being named to start.

Ben Youngs could join him if introduced off the bench as England look to make it two wins from two in the early stages of their Pool C campaign.

Professional rugby players seldom face the challenge of a four-day turnaround.

But Jones and England have long been preparing for Thursday’s clash with USA on Kobe.

They will only get one day of training in following Sunday’s opening win over Tonga in Sapporo.

But they replicated those circumstances last autumn against Japan in preparation while the starting XV Jones has named is very similar to the side that faced Wales in their second warm-up clash last month.

12 of this starting XV were originally named to start that defeat at Principality Stadium – Ruaridh McConnochie was a late injury withdrawal – and Jones and his side are well-prepared for what lies in wait.

Jones said: “The four-day turnaround is something we experimented with against Japan last autumn and so the players have had some experience of it.

So for us, a short and fast run tomorrow and today is an active recovery day. What I see now is players handling it really well but the game on Thursday will be the litmus test.”

The other Guinness Six Nations side to name their starting XV today were Italy, and there were some eye-catching selections.

Like England, they faced a tough turnaround for Thursday’s Fukuoka fixture against Canada and only kept five men in the starting XV.

Hooker Luca Bigi and fly-half Tommaso Allan were somewhat predictable for continuity in key positions, but Jayden Hayward’s switch to inside centre was a shock.

The Kiwi-born back has established himself as Italy’s first-choice full-back of late and never started a Test in midfield, although he played much of his early Super Rugby career in the centres.

He will partner Michele Campagnaro while Tommaso Benvenuti – centre on Sunday against Namibia – switches to the wing as Italy look for more cutting edge.

Keep an eye on Matteo Minozzi and Jake Polledri as well, restored to the starting XV after making a real impact from the bench on Sunday.

France did not make it easy for themselves in their opening success against Argentina, but they got the all-important win thanks to Camille Lopez’s late drop goal in a 23-21 win.

For a team who have struggled for confidence in recent times, it was an impressive show of will to hold off a big Argentine comeback.

And full-back Thomas Ramos has revealed that Les Bleus had taken some inspiration from the six players who had missed out on a place in the final 31-man squad.

Scrum-half Baptiste Serin and centre Sofiane Guitoune, both of whom were not in the matchday 23, had put up photos of the squad during the preparation camps, including those who had not made it all the way to Japan.

That commitment to the cause for those who had missed out had already been expressed by Louis Picamoles after the final warm-up victory over Italy, and it is clearly driving on the French team.

The squad are now down in Kumamoto where they are preparing for their meeting with the USA in ten days’ time.

Tuesday proved a big day for squad changes a both Wales and Scotland called up injury replacements, Bradley Davies and Henry Pyrgos the men brought in.

Warren Gatland had hinted after the victory over Georgia that Cory Hill might have to pull out of the competition, having not recovered from the leg fracture he suffered in the spring.

Hill has been fighting to prove his fitness in Japan, but the decision was taken to call in the vastly experienced Davies with the Dragons man still not ready to go.

Meanwhile, Scotland have had to call up a second player in as many days with Pyrgos joining up in place of the injured Ali Price.

The Glasgow Warriors scrum-half suffered a foot injury in Sunday’s loss to Ireland, and an x-ray confirmed that he would play no further part in the tournament.

That follows Hamish Watson’s withdrawal on Monday, replaced by Magnus Bradbury who was already out in Japan on standby. Pyrgos, meanwhile, is set to arrive on Thursday and link up with the rest of the squad in Kobe ahead of the clash with Samoa.

In the same Pool A, Ireland face hosts Japan knowing that victory would put them within touching distance of the quarter-finals.

Having picked up maximum points in victory over Scotland on Sunday, another success against the Brave Blossoms would mean Ireland had beaten their two highest-ranked opponents in the pool.

However, Joe Schmidt is still waiting on the availability of Johnny Sexton, who was withdrawn in the second half of the win over Scotland.

He trained apart from the rest of the Ireland squad on Monday as he rehabbed a quad injury but is now back in training, while Bundee Aki and Peter O’Mahony have both come through their HIA protocol and are back in full training.

With Joey Carbery, Keith Earls and Rob Kearney also training fully, Ireland are approaching a clean bill of health, with just Robbie Henshaw ruled out of the Japan clash for the moment.