Teams already tapping depth at Rugby World Cup
A flurry of team announcements at the Rugby World Cup on Tuesday revealed a divergent approach to selection policies between teams which value consistency and those prepared to tap the depth of their 30-man squads.
One change that wasn't part of any team policy was the suspension of England lock Courtney Lawes for two matches for striking Argentina hooker Mario Ledesma with his knee in the 13-9 win on Saturday.
"It's a fast-moving game and he's started to make what he thought was a try-saving tackle, and we thought whatever contact with the knee was accidental," said team manager Martin Johnson, who is yet to decide whether to appeal the verdict. "They saw things slightly differently."
Lawes will miss England's Pool B games against Georgia on Sunday and Romania on Sept. 24 following the IRB disciplinary hearing in Auckland, but will be available for the final first-round match against Scotland.
France coach Marc Lievremont made 11 changes to his lineup for Sunday's match against Canada, emphasizing the broad brush approach was "not a punishment" for France's indifferent opening performance against Japan.
Tonga coach Isitolo Maka also made 11 changes to face Canada on Wednesday following the Ikale Tahi's better-than-expected performance against New Zealand in the tournament's opening game.
But other coaches chose to tinker rather than disassemble their teams.
The United States replaced three players for Thursday's match against Russia, which will be making its World Cup debut. Argentina made two injury-enforced changes for its Pool B match against Romania on Saturday, drawing confidence from its courageous performance against England.
After two rest days, the World Cup will burst back to life on Wednesday with three matches spread between New Zealand's northernmost and southernmost major cities, Whangarei and Invercargill.
Tonga will meet Canada in Whangarei, Samoa will take on Namibia at Rotorua and, at Invercargill, Scotland will face off against a Georgian team also playing for the first time at this World Cup.
The straight-talking Lievremont, noted for publicly taking players to task for on-field failings, hastened to assure reporters on Tuesday that his broad reorganization of the French team did not reflect any displeasure.
He said the changes were made with consideration of the matches ahead of his team, not those behind.
"It's down to the fact that, as you all know, there will be some matches that will probably be tough. Obviously it's not a punishment," Lievremont said. "In principal, we've got more difficult matches ahead. It's important to get everyone involved."
Lievremont has replaced scrumhalf Dimitri Yachvili with Morgan Parra and rested captain Thierry Dusautoir, bringing in flanker Fulgene Ouedraogo in his place.
Winger Vincent Clerc, hooker William Servat, flyhalf Francois Trinh-Duc and outside back Aurelien Rougerie are the only players remaining from the 47-21 win against Japan. Rougerie will captain the side in Dusautoir's absence.
Isitolo Maka made seven changes to Tonga's forward pack and four to the backline from the 41-10 loss to the All Blacks. He has moved his brother, captain Finau Maka, from the openside flank to the blindside, Taniela Moa from scrumhalf to flyhalf and Kurt Morath from flyhalf to fullback.
Tonga lost to Canada in their first World Cup game in 1987 and again in 2003 and must win on Wednesday to have any chance of qualifying for the quarter-finals from Pool A.
Marcelo Bosch and Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino are the new faces in Argentina's starting XV to play Romania at Invercargill on Saturday in which Hooker Mario Ledesma will set a record for Rugby World Cup matches for Argentina, playing his 15th.
Bosch replaces Gonzalo Tiesi, who has been ruled out of the rest of the World Cup with a knee ligament injury. Amorosino comes in at fullback, also because of injury, to force positional switches for Martin Rodriguez and Santiago Fernandez.
Fernandez will start at flyhalf, replacing Felipe Contepomi after the captain injured his ribs against England. No. 8 Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe was named skipper in Contepomi's absence.
Fernandez Lobbe said Contepomi will be missed.
"He's our star, the leader and the captain who can make a difference," he said. "But we believe we have a strong squad and can make it, so we don't miss him too badly."
The United States made only three changes for the "superpowers" match against Russia at New Plymouth, though Thursday's match will be its second in just five days.
Only hooker Phil Thiel, prop Shawn Pittman and fullback Blaine Scully drop out from the side that lost 22-10 to Ireland on Sunday. The trio are on the bench and replaced in the starting lineup selected Tuesday by Chris Biller, Matekitonga Moeakiola and Chris Wyles.
Backrower Vyaceslav Grachev, at 38 years and 146 days, will become the oldest player to compete at this year's tournament and the third-oldest in World Cup history when he takes the field for Russia.
Australia-born Adam Byrnes has been named on the Russian bench after answering an appeal from the team's coaches for players of Russian heritage. Byrnes, a lock with the Super 15's Melbourne Rebels, wrote to Russia's forwards coach, Kingsley Jones, and told him that he'd "be pleased to play for the Bears."
The Russian connection? His mother left the then Soviet Union after World War II as a child with her parents and sister for Australia.
Russia captain captain Vladislav Korshunov said the match isn't a battle between the world's former superpowers.
"For us, the game is not a political question," he said. "It's just important to be here and take part at Rugby World Cup.
"It's just another chance to show who is stronger."
Meanwhile, New Zealand's government said Tuesday it will move to avoid a repeat of the traffic and organizational chaos which plagued the World Cup's opening ceremony last Friday.
It will invoke special statutory powers to take control of Auckland's waterfront, which was jammed with more than 200,000 fans on opening night. City officials had expected a crowd of only 50,000. Trains, buses and ferries ground to a halt because of the demand.