KOBE, Japan – The 20 Rugby World Cup teams are equally divided into two groups, defined by World Rugby as Level 1 and Level 2.
Tier 2 teams, which include second-tier and developing rugby nations like the United States and Canada, have been improving, but their games on Thursday against England and Italy, two traditional Tier 1 powers, showed that the The difference between the two groups remains large.
How wide? How about seven tries for one?
The ruling pack of England pushed the Americans all night – rolling past them, past them, over them – to score seven attempts on the way to a 45-7 blast in Kobe. In Fukuoka, on Thursday afternoon, Italy scored seven attempts and defeated the Canadians 48-7. Both US teams escaped shutout losses by only one late attempt, but both were clearly overcome.
"England was relentless in the areas they thought they could exploit about us," said US captain Blaine Scully. At a post-game news conference, he added: "The English showed why they are one of the best teams in the world."
Italy usually ends at the end of the annual Six Nations tournament, between Europe's Tier 1 countries, behind England, France, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. And before Thursday's matches, the Italians were in a place behind the 13 Americans. However, they had no problems against Canada, which failed to get out of the pool game in the last six World Cups.
The unbalanced defeats were not surprising. Previous Level 1 x Level 2 games in this World Cup have had impressive England wins over Tonga; by Italy over Namibia; and for Wales over Georgia. Even Fiji, one of the best in Level 2 and a team that managed to reach a world ranking in the top 10, lost to Australia by 18 points.
Following the loss of the Americans to England, their South African coach Gary Gold described the mood in the United States team locker room as "gloomy".
"We are still bitterly disappointed with the performance and the result, but I have tremendous confidence and faith in these players," said Gold. “We will be better. We will definitely get better. "
But his team is in a Tier 1 nation-wide pool and will face France, followed by Argentina. You will have to improve a lot to have a small chance of winning against these teams.
The Americans started the game on a positive note by moving the ball to England through various stages of the game, but an early ankle injury to sustain David Ainu & # 39; u took them off the pace.
England's half-sister George Ford took a lapse in the defense and scored a goal in the fifth minute, which opened the floodgates. Ford's vision and management of England's offense kept the Americans off balance all night long.
Ainu & # 39; u's injury also forced an early change in the front line of United States strikers, which may have affected their scrums play and defense against England's maul driving tactic, where a player catches the ball behind the great attackers who advance a pack together. England scored their other two attempts in the first half out of tactic and led 19-0 at halftime.
England made a few more prominent plays, including an attempt by Joe Cokanasiga, after a pass from Jonathan Joseph, who left American defenders with a fake discharge before moving to Cokanasiga.
A low of the match came at 70 minutes. Owen Farrell of England lost control of the ball in the middle of England, giving the Americans an offensive attack. But John Quill, an American flanker, attacked Farrell's head with the shoulder and got a red card. The Americans, therefore, had to play the rest of the game as a short man, and Quill could face other disciplinary actions.
Then, after 78 minutes, American defender Will Hooley fell hard after a collision and was taken off the field on a stretcher. He was taken to hospital for evaluation with suspected concussion.
After a wild, two-way spinning final scene after the full 80 minutes ended, the Americans managed a consolation attempt with substitute center Bryce Campbell with an A.J. MacGinty flyhalf pass and crossing the line.
"The more opportunities we have to play at England-level teams and last November, like Ireland, gives us more opportunities to improve," said the coach before the game.
His team's first shot at one was a disappointment. There will be another against France on Wednesday in Fukuoka.